Charlton was a part of the successful Leeds United side of the 1960s and 1970s, winning a league championship (1969), an FA Cup (1972), a League Cup (1968) and two Fairs Cups (1968 and 1971) and made a club record 773 appearances. He won 35 England caps and played in every game of the successful 1966 World Cup campaign. In 2006, Leeds United supporters voted Charlton into the club's greatest ever XI.
Charlton later became a manager of both domestic and international sides. In his first season as a manager, he led Middlesbrough to the Second Division title, for which he was voted Manager of the Year in 1974. He later took charge of the Republic of Ireland national team, and led them to their first ever World Cup in 1990, where they reached the quarter-finals.
Born into a footballing family in Ashington, Northumberland, Charlton was initially overshadowed by his younger brother Bobby, who was taken on by Manchester United while Jack was doing his National Service with the Household Cavalry. His uncles were Jack Milburn (Leeds United and Bradford City), George Milburn (Leeds United and Chesterfield), Jim Milburn (Leeds United and Bradford Park Avenue) and Stan Milburn (Chesterfield, Leicester City and Rochdale), and legendary Newcastle United and England footballer Jackie Milburn was his mother's cousin.
After quitting a job in a coal mine, Charlton applied to join the police, but was then offered a trial by Leeds United after they had spotted him playing as a central defender in an amateur match. The trial game clashed with his police interview, and Charlton chose to play in the game. He impressed enough to be offered an apprenticeship with Leeds, and then signed professional terms in 1952. Charlton played in the Leeds senior team for the first time in April 1953 and within another two years was a regular fixture in the side, built around John Charles. Under Raich Carter, Leeds won promotion to the First Division in 1956, before suffering relegation in 1960. Jack Taylor replaced Carter as manager but he was fired in March 1961 and replaced by Don Revie. In 1963 Revie agreed to sell Charlton but interested clubs – including Liverpool and Manchester United – could not match Leeds' asking price. Ultimately, they settled their differences, and Revie built the Leeds defence around Charlton.
Charlton was joined at centre back in 1962 by Norman Hunter, a product of the youth policy. Other youth team players such as Peter Lorimer, Paul Reaney and Billy Bremner also came into the side and Leeds won promotion back to the First Division in 1964. Leeds made an immediate impact on their first season back in the top flight; they were runners up in the league, losing the title to Manchester United on goal average, and were beaten 2–1 by Liverpool in the FA Cup final. Charlton, operating as an emergency striker, set up Bremner's goal for Leeds.
International recognition and a World Cup winner's medal
With Charlton approaching his 30th birthday, he was called up by Alf Ramsey to play for England against Scotland at Wembley. The game ended 2–2 and Charlton was impressive enough to keep his place. With England hosting the 1966 World Cup in just over 12 months' time, the incentive to stay in the side was obvious.
Ramsey chopped and changed other areas of his team as the World Cup neared, but Charlton's defensive partnership with captain Bobby Moore remained a constant fixture. Charlton got his first England goal in a pre-tournament victory over Denmark before Ramsey confirmed his squad of 22 players for the finals. Charlton was in the squad, and was given the No. 5 shirt, an indication that if fit he would be the first choice partner for Moore.
England drew their opening group game against Uruguay 0–0, but progressed to the knock-out stages after victories against Mexico and France. The latter game finished 2–0 with Roger Hunt getting both England goals, one of which came after Charlton, venturing forward to add height to the attack, hit the post with a header. England eliminated Argentina in the quarter finals, taking them to a semi final against Portugal.
Charlton had his work cut out keeping Portugal's Torres quiet, with the centre forward winning his fair share of aerial duels. However, his brother Bobby scored twice to give England a commanding lead, before Eusébio scored a late penalty after Charlton had handled a shot on the goal-line. England clung on and reached the final, where they would play West Germany.
In the final, England beat West Germany 4–2 after extra time to win the World Cup. One of the most memorable images at the final whistle was the sight of Charlton, at 31 the second oldest member of the team, sinking to his knees with his face in his hands, weeping with joy.
Leeds United: trophies and near misses
In 1967 Charlton had a mixed time. Leeds missed out on domestic honours again and Charlton picked up an injury while playing for England in April in a 3–2 defeat to Scotland at Wembley, during which he scored. However, he ended the season as the Footballer Of The Year and his future after football as an after-dinner speaker was marked by his speech at the awards ceremony, which earned him a standing ovation.
Charlton finally won domestic honours with Leeds in 1968 with a controversial League Cup victory over Arsenal – the Arsenal players claimed that Charlton had committed a foul in their penalty area prior to the ball reaching Terry Cooper, who scored the only goal. Leeds also won the Fairs Cup and Charlton completed the year by playing his 447th League game, breaking the club's previous record for appearances.
In 1969, Leeds finally got their hands on the League championship, with Charlton proving a rock at the back as the team lost just two games all season. A year later, Leeds went for the unprecedented treble of League title, FA Cup and European Cup – and missed out on all three. Everton pipped Leeds to the title, Celtic beat them in the semi finals of the European Cup, and Leeds lost the FA Cup final to Chelsea after a replay, after a pressured Charlton had unwittingly back-headed a long throw across his own area, allowing David Webb to score Chelsea's winner. Charlton was so angry that he did not collect his runners-up medal afterwards. He had earlier scored Leeds' opening goal in the original tie.
In the summer of 1970, Ramsey named Charlton in his squad of 22 for the 1970 World Cup. However, Charlton was not Moore's first choice partner, with Everton's Brian Labone getting the nod after a sturdy series of displays during the European Championships two years earlier. Charlton played his 35th and final England game in the 1–0 group win over Czechoslovakia. He scored six goals in those 35 appearances.
England lost in the quarter finals to West Germany, and on the flight home, Charlton asked Ramsey not to be considered for international duty again. Charlton agonised over how to break the news to Ramsey. Eventually, he walked down the aisle, sat down next to Ramsey and said: "Great times … absolute privilege … getting older … slowing down … not sure I am up to it any more … time to step down." Ramsey listened, then agreed with him. "Yes, I had reached that conclusion myself."
Charlton's brother Bobby also asked Ramsey not to consider him again for the England team during the same flight. Neither would play for England ever again.
Twilight honours at Leeds
In October 1970, Charlton famously appeared on a Tyne Tees football programme, where he said he'd once had a "little black book" of names of players whom he intended to hurt or exact some form of revenge upon during his playing days. He later said this was a figure of speech and that no such book existed.
Leeds won the Fairs Cup again in 1971, but lost the league championship to Arsenal. In 1972, Leeds finally won the FA Cup and Charlton completed his set of domestic medals. Although he continued playing, he suffered an injury in an FA Cup semi final in 1973 which ruled him out for the rest of the season. He battled to be fit for the 1973 FA Cup Final but failed, and consequently chose to retire from playing. He was 38 and had 774 club appearances and 96 goals to his name.
Republic of Ireland
Charlton spent a brief time outside of football before being approached by the FAI to manage the Republic of Ireland. Ireland had a particularly strong squad at the time, with players of the calibre of Liam Brady, Ronnie Whelan, Kevin Moran, Mark Lawrenson, Chris Hughton, Paul McGrath and David O'Leary, but had never qualified for a major tournament. In May 1986, Ireland won the Iceland Triangular Tournament in Iceland in Charlton's fourth game in charge.
Ireland qualified for the 1988 European Championships in Germany, and were drawn against England, the Soviet Union and the Netherlands in their group.
An early Houghton goal in Ireland's opening game against England was enough to clinch a 1–0 win. Ireland subsequently drew 1–1 with the Soviets but went out of the competition when they lost 1–0 to the Dutch. Charlton then received the runner-up prize in the World Soccer Manager of the Year awards in 1988.
Ireland qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 1990, where they were drawn against England, Egypt and The Netherlands. The Irish qualified from the group stage despite failing to win any of their 3 group games. They drew 1–1, 0–0 and 1–1 against the English, Egyptians and Dutch respectively.
They defeated Romania in the second round match which went to penalties after a 0–0 draw, before meeting Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. Charlton admitted that at one point during the service he actually fell asleep because of the heat and having to sit in the one spot for a long time.
Ireland eventually went out to the hosts, Italy 1–0 in the quarter final. Over 500,000 fans lined the streets of Dublin to welcome the team home from their first World Cup campaign.
Ireland failed to reach the Euro 92, despite going through qualification unbeaten. The team qualified for the 1994 World Cup in the U.S., and beat Italy 1–0 in the first round. During Ireland's next game, against Mexico, Charlton had a pitch-side argument with a linesman who was preventing substitute John Aldridge from taking the pitch. Mexico went on to win 2–1. Charlton was later fined, although he claimed in his autobiography that he never actually paid the fine, and was suspended for the final group match in New York. He watched from the stands as Ireland drew 0–0 to Norway, thus qualifying for the second round. In their next game, Ireland were eliminated from the competition after losing 2–0 to the Netherlands.
Charlton was awarded the freedom of the city of Dublin in 1994 by Lord Mayor Tomás Mac Giolla.
Ireland failed to qualify for Euro 96, despite a strong start to the group, when they won their opening three games, including a 4–0 win against Northern Ireland. The Republic's next game was also against Northern Ireland, although the result was a 1–1 draw. From that point onwards the Republic stuttered badly; after beating the highly fancied Portuguese, the Irish then endured an embarrassing 0–0 draw to Liechtenstein, before losing twice to Austria, on both occasions by three goals to one. Although they defeated Latvia, Ireland needed to beat Portugal in Lisbon to qualify outright, but lost 3–0. In an emotionally charged play off at Anfield against the Netherlands, Ireland lost 2–0.
Charlton resigned shortly after the game. During his reign Ireland peaked at #6 in the FIFA World Rankings and defeated nearly all the major football nations, including Brazil, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, the USSR and England. By his own choice, Charlton's involvement in football since then has been limited to punditry and speaking.