Jack Charlton

Football's Pioneering Managers: Jack Charlton

‘Big Jack’ Charlton (1935-2020) was one of British football’s big personalities during the latter half of the 20th century.
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Famously a member of England’s 1966 World Cup winning team with brother Bobby, he was also a stalwart of Don Revie’s great Leeds United team from the 1960s and 1970s, making a still club record 773 appearances. He achieved perhaps even greater fame and adulation as the manager of the Republic of Ireland (1986-96), guiding them to EURO 88 and two World Cups (1990 and 1994).

Charlton, though, began his managerial career at Middlesbrough in 1973. He came to an unusual and informal arrangement with the club. Charlton would stay for only four years, there was no contract. He would be paid a relatively modest salary of £10,000 (plus another £10,000 if Middlesbrough were promoted); and he was given time off for shooting and fishing, a feature throughout his career. 

Charlton himself had been preparing for management during his playing days. Beneath his bluff exterior, he was a thinker about the game and how it should be played. He liked organisation and planning, and had been frustrated by the lack of coaching during his early days at Leeds. From the 1950s, he had been a regular attendee of FA coaching courses at Lilleshall, which had opened up his mind to new ways of thinking about football. 

He was an immediate success at Ayresome Park. Middlesbrough were promoted to the First Division with a record points total. Charlton was subsequently named Manager of the Year (the only one ever outside the top division). Inheriting a team that finished fourth the previous season, he added Bobby Murdoch, a European Cup winner with Celtic. While Murdoch supplemented Graeme Souness in the midfield, the team was built on a solid defence, and also included future England international David Armstrong. Employing a direct style of play that was to characterise his coaching style, the team was initially a force in the league, without challenging for major trophies. He left in 1977 frustrated at the lack of success. Charlton later admitted his own frugality was a contributing factor as he refused to sign players he thought were overpriced.

Charlton returned – largely unsuccessfully – to management with Sheffield Wednesday, (1977-83). He then had a brief spell as caretaker manager back at Middlesbrough in 1984 before joining his boyhood club, Newcastle United. After one season, though, he resigned abruptly following criticism from the fans. His career seemed to have stalled, but was then reinvigorated by his Irish adventure. 

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