FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Jack Charlton, Soccer and Ireland’s Working Class

Of course, we knew Jack Charlton was human. We knew he was mortal, that he didn’t create the world. But to us, in Ireland, it just looked that way. Ireland in the 1980s was bleak. The most common reason, for people in their 20s, to meet friends in a bar was to wish them well as they headed for a new life in the UK, the US or Australia. We were haemorrhaging our young.

Every weekend, I mean every weekend, in 1984 -1986 there was a modest farewell party involving people you knew.

People attending would quickly be asked…“And when are you leaving?’’ We had our replies ready, there were well-honed. “Ah, just waiting for the visa to come through,’’ or “waiting for a room to become available in London,’’ or “the flight to Australia will be a bit cheaper in a few months’’.

Northern Ireland was claiming lives. The economy was in freefall. Jobs were scarce. It was no country for young men.

At the end of 1985 Charlton was offered the job as Ireland’s soccer manager. He should not have been. He had a great playing career but had never won anything in club management in England. Other candidates, who had won major club trophies, seemed better suited but turned down the opportunity. It looked as if Ireland had picked not the best candidate but the only candidate who actually wanted the job.

Charlton himself often recalled that moment with impish humour.  “I told them it wasn’t about the money. It was about the honour.’’ He quickly released that was a mistake.  “They wrote a number on a piece of paper, put the paper face-down on the table and slid it over to me. I looked at it and said: ‘It’s not that much of an honour’.”

And so the journey began, the Lost Tribe being brought to the promised land of football glory, Euro-88, and World Cups in 1990 and 1994. We beat England in 1988, drew with them in 1990 and beat Italy in 1994.  When news came of Charlton’s death on Saturday, the memories flooded in. We knew he had been unwell for some time. Cancer and dementia.  Not helped by heading a wet soggy, heavy ball long before today’s lighter versions were played with.

He had no airs and graces.  He was quintessentially working class. At 15 he had worked in the mines.  Along with another northern Englishman, Brian Clough, he sharply criticized the racist National Front in the mid-70s. This required no little courage. At the time they seemed to be emerging as a potent force, especially in the north. He would bow to no man, but he would take a knee today.

He went all over Ireland fishing and there are many stories of him popping into a small pub after a day by the river to chat with the locals.

Because of this, it was a commonly-held belief that Charlton paid his bar bills by check in the knowledge that publicans and restaurants would not cash them. Instead they would frame it and place it on the wall behind the counter.

Charlton, however, denied this was the case.

If I am at a bar, he said, a pint of beer will appear in front of me, even if I already have one. He added that if he did try to pay by cash, someone else would have already settled the account.

It would have been an honor to buy you a drink.

Thank you. You gave us reason to smile.

Cheers, Jack.

More articles by:

Tom Clifford, now in China, worked in Qatar with Gulf Times from 1989-1992 and covered the Gulf War for Irish and Canadian newspapers as well as for other media organizations.

August 13, 2020
David Correia, Justin Bendell, and Ernesto Longa
Nine Mile Ride: Why Police Reform Always Results in More Police Violence, Not Less
Vijay Prashad
Why a Growing Force in Brazil Is Charging That President Jair Bolsonaro Has Committed Crimes Against Humanity
Brett Wilkins
Teaching Torture: The Death and Legacy of Dan Mitrione
Joseph Scalia III
Yellowstone Imperiled by Compromise
Binoy Kampmark
Don’t Stigmatise the Nuke! Opponents of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty
Margot Rathke
The Stimulus Deal Should Include Free College
CounterPunch News Service
Critic of Wildlife Department Removed Day Before Scheduled Meetings on Revisions to Wolf-killing Protocols
Thomas Knapp
America Doesn’t Have Real Presidential Debates, But It Should
George Ochenski
Time to Face – and Plan for – Our Very Different Future
Ted Rall
Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential Pick is … ZZZZZ
Purusottam Thakur
‘If We Don’t Work, Who’ll Produce the Harvest?’
Robert Dreyfuss
October Surprise: Will War with Iran Be Trump’s Election Eve Shocker?
Gary Leupp
The RCP, Fascism, and Chairman Bob’s Endorsement of Biden for President
James Haught
The Pandemic Disproves God
Robert Koehler
Election Theft and the Reluctant Democracy
August 12, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Trump’s War On Arms Control and Disarmament
P. Sainath
“We Didn’t Bleed Him Enough”: When Normal is the Problem
Riva Enteen
Kamala Harris? Really? Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
Kenneth Surin
The Decrepit UK Political System
Robert Hunziker
Freakish Arctic Fires Alarmingly Intensify
Ramzy Baroud
The Likud Conspiracy: Israel in the Throes of a Major Political Crisis
Sam Pizzigati
Within Health Care USA, Risk and Reward Have Never Been More Out of Kilter
John Perry
The US Contracts Out Its Regime Change Operation in Nicaragua
Binoy Kampmark
Selective Maritime Rules: The United States, Diego Garcia and International Law
Manuel García, Jr.
The Improbability of CO2 Removal From the Atmosphere
Khury Petersen-Smith
The Road to Portland: The Two Decades of ‘Homeland Security’
Raouf Halaby
Teaching Palestinian Children to Love Beethoven, Bizet, and Mozart is a Threat to a Depraved Israeli Society
Jeff Mackler
Which Way for Today’s Mass Radicalization? Capitalism’s Impending Catastrophe…or a Socialist Future
Tom Engelhardt
It Could Have Been Different
Stephen Cooper
Santa Davis and the “Stalag 17” Riddim
August 11, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
Why Capitalism is in Constant Conflict With Democracy
Paul Street
Defund Fascism, Blue and Orange
Richard C. Gross
Americans Scorned
Andrew Levine
Trump and Biden, Two Ignoble Minds Here O’erthrown
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Nationalism Has Led to the Increased Repression of Minorities
Sonali Kolhatkar
Trump’s Presidency is a Death Cult
Colin Todhunter
Pushing GMO Crops into India: Experts Debunk High-Level Claims of Bt Cotton Success
Valerie Croft
How Indigenous Peoples are Using Ancestral Organizing Practices to Fight Mining Corporations and Covid-19
David Rovics
Tear Gas Ted Has a Tantrum in Portland
Dean Baker
There is No Evidence That Generous Unemployment Benefits are Making It Difficult to Find Workers
Robert Fantina
War on Truth: How Kashmir Struggles for Freedom of Press
Dave Lindorff
Trump Launches Attack on Social Security and Medicare
Elizabeth Schmidt
COVID-19 Poses a Huge Threat to Stability in Africa
Parth M.N.
Coping With a Deadly Virus, a Social One, Too
Thomas Knapp
The “Election Interference” Fearmongers Think You’re Stupid
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail