‘One of our own’: Jack Charlton’s hometown celebrates Irish connection at statue unveiling

A shamrock from Tyneside Irish Centre was placed at the foot of the statue at Hirst Park in Ashington, Northumberland

The community in Jack Charlton’s hometown paid tribute to his deep connection to Ireland as a statue commemorating the former Republic of Ireland manager and England World Cup winner was unveiled on Saturday.

Family, locals and members of Tyneside’s Irish community were among the crowd of about a thousand people who braved the rain at Hirst Park in Ashington, Northumberland in the northeast of England this morning.

His widow Pat, who was joined by the couple’s son John, said that Jack had travelled far and wide with football “but now he’s come home.”

She was said to have been deeply touched at the extent to which sculptor, Douglas Jennings, had managed to capture the essence of her late husband.


A shamrock from Tyneside Irish Centre was placed at the foot of the statue as a tribute to his achievements as manager of the Republic of Ireland football team, whom he led to the 1988 European Championships and the 1990 and 1994 World Cups.

Among those in attendance at the unveiling was Bill Corcoran, who with Tyneside Irish Centre in nearby Newcastle. Mr Corcoran told The Irish Times that it was fitting that the statue to Jack was unveiled during Tyneside Irish Week.

“Jack Charlton was a stalwart of the Irish community,” he said. “We all remember 1990. We remember it like it was yesterday. It was the fact that for us in the Irish community on Tyneside, this was one of our own.

“I remember that night in the Irish centre when we were watching Ireland beat Romania 1-0. And Jack came about a month afterwards and he said ‘you never lose your identity.’ He used to pop in to us now and again.

“We have pictures of him pointing at Paul McGrath and the Irish team on the wall. His team.

“He was a man of great emotion. Tremendous heart and soul and intellect. He knew how to use it but he wore his gifts lightly.”

Ashington AFC this season wear an away shirt in Irish colours as part of the tribute.

Mr Corcoran said the northeast of England has always had a great affinity with Ireland.

“The Irish have always fitted in here,” he said. “Jack Charlton seemed to feel that instinctively and get on with people. I think he was a great exponent of soft power. He would just talk to people on the street and they would talk back to him. Today was special.”

In July 2020, following Charlton’s death at the age of 85, town councillor Liam Lavery came up with the idea of having a statue of the local hero in his native Ashington.

The Jack the Elder statue looks out on to the football fields where Jack, and brother Bobby, learned their craft. Sir Bobby Charlton, who was also a World Cup winner and the third highest goal scorer ever for England, is now 85 and was diagnosed with dementia in 2020.

Meanwhile, Cllr Mark Purvis, the chairman of Ashington Town Council, said he was proud to have been involved in the project from the start.

“The work is exceptional, not only of the statue, but the linked project to celebrate Ashington’s footballing heritage. We are rightly proud of our sporting legacy and thanks to this project, we are sharing the stories, and hopefully inspiring more to come.”

“Hirst Park is owned and managed by Northumberland County Council, who are pleased to have been able to support what will no doubt become a much-celebrated work of art and heritage.

“As we watch the 2022 England squad, we will remember the success of the 1966 squad, two of whom were born and raised in Ashington.”

The event also welcomed three icons of the game, Eddie Gray of the Leeds United team of the 1960s and 1970s; Newcastle United and Scotland captain Bob Moncur; and Newcastle United and Sunderland legend, Bryan “Pop” Robson.

Billy Docherty, chairman of Ashington Association Football Club, said the legacy of Jack Charlton will inspire an annual event for the club, and the statue will add greatly to its impact at Hirst Park.

Ashington AFC was formed in 1883, making it one of the oldest clubs in Northumberland. Past players include the Charlton brothers and Jackie Milburn of Newcastle.