Paul McGrath pays tribute to ‘father figure’ Jack Charlton
Former players and teammates have spoken after the 85-year-old passed away
Paul McGrath sits alongside Jack Charlton during the Ireland v England friendly in 2015. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Former Ireland defender Paul McGrath has paid tribute to Jack Charlton, who died on Friday aged 85, saying his former manager “became a father figure to me”.
McGrath played an integral role in Ireland’s three major tournaments under Charlton – Euro 88 and the 1990 and 1994 World Cups – and his performance in the 1-0 win over Italy in 1994 is regarded as one of the greatest any Irish team has ever seen.
“Today, I am truly heartbroken at Jack’s passing,” McGrath said in a statement released through the FAI.
“It is difficult for me to articulate what Jack meant to me both on and off the football field.
“Throughout his ten years as manager of our International team, Jack backed me as a footballer and as a person - he became a father figure to me.
“He gave me his full support when I needed it most and for which I am forever grateful. He has been a hugely important person in my life.
“The Irish people warmed to him because of his big character and he gave us the belief in ourselves to compete in the big tournaments. I am very honoured to have been a part of Jack’s journey.
“Today is a sad day for the Irish football community and we all owe him a huge gratitude for the joy and memories he has given us.
“He is a man I genuinely loved.
“My thoughts today are with Pat and the Charlton family.
“Thank you Jack - sleep well.”
Tributes have been pouring in for the 1966 World Cup winner with former Ireland midfielder Ray Houghton saying that Charlton “changed everything about Irish football”.
The Premier League announced black armbands will be worn by players at all matches this weekend, Houghton labelled Charlton a “legend” after winning a clutch of honours with Leeds as a player and helping the Republic qualify for the 1990 and 1994 World Cups and Euro 1988.
“He was a larger than life character,” Houghton told talkSPORT.
“The word legend is used too much in football but not for Jack, for what he’s done domestically with Leeds, winning the World Cup, which he should have been knighted for, I’ve still never understood that, I think that’s an absolute disgrace and the fact that he did so well with Ireland.
“He changed everything about Irish football because there was a stage where we hadn’t qualified for tournaments, we had some great players and very good managers but didn’t quite get over the line.
“Jack came in and changed that mentality, got us through two World Cups and one European Championship. His legacy within Ireland is absolutely huge.”
Mick McCarthy was appointed Republic captain by Charlton and went on to succeed the former defender as manager of the national side in 1996.
“It’s a real shock that he’s passed away and I’m very, very sad,” McCarthy told talkSPORT.
“It was the happiest time of my career, he made it simple for me and I’ll always remember him for that.
“I wasn’t the best player in that team, nowhere near. But he saw something in me and I’ll never forget him for that.”
John Aldridge, Houghton and McCarthy’s former Republic team-mate, tweeted: “Absolutely gutted that Big Jack has passed away! What a football man, loved and adored, specially in Ireland. The best manager I was lucky to play for.
“The times we had on and off the pitch were priceless! My thoughts are with (wife) Pat and the family! RIP my good friend. Never forgotten!”
The Premier League announced players will wear black armbands and there will be a minute’s silence in all matches this weekend in tribute to Charlton.
Former England striker Gary Lineker tweeted: “Saddened to hear that Jack Charlton has passed away. World Cup winner with England, manager of probably the best ever Ireland side and a wonderfully infectious personality to boot. RIP Jack.”
Charlton started his managerial career at Middlesbrough in 1973 and is still revered on Teesside after leading the club into the old first division as champions in his four-year stint.
A Boro spokesman said: “Middlesbrough FC are saddened to hear the news. Jack was a true gentleman and was liked by everyone who met him.
“He had a great playing career and was a very successful manager, particularly at Middlesbrough, where he guided us to promotion in 1974.
“Our thoughts are with Jack’s family and friends. He was a great football man and he will be sorely missed.”
After leaving Middlesbrough, he went to manage Sheffield Wednesday, who tweeted: “Everyone at Sheffield Wednesday is saddened to learn of the passing of club legend Jack Charlton. RIP”
Charlton also had a spell in charge of Newcastle, who tweeted: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former #NUFC manager and England World Cup winner, Jack Charlton at the age of 85. RIP, Jack. A true legend of the game.”
Football Association chairman Greg Clarke expressed his sadness at Saturday’s news.
“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Jack Charlton and my thoughts are with his wife Pat, his family and friends,” he said.
“A true giant of English football, Jack will forever be remembered for his significant contribution to our World Cup win in 1966 and for being a warm-hearted, thoughtful man.
“My condolences also go to all connected with Leeds United, where Jack spent his entire playing career. He won every single major domestic trophy including the first division title and the FA Cup, and enjoyed European success too.
“He was also voted Footballer of the Year in 1967 — following his brother Bobby — and his subsequent managerial career would bring even more incredible memories, particularly with the Republic of Ireland.
“I am certain that all football fans, and many more besides, will mourn Jack today.
“He left an indelible impression on our national game and was guaranteed an affectionate and warm welcome wherever he went. A huge presence on and off the pitch, Jack will never be forgotten at Wembley.”
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer paid tribute to Charlton at the start of his press conference on Saturday morning.
“It’s very sad news and a legend of football and a gentleman,” he said.
“I watched Norway play Ireland in the World Cup ‘94, but he was always so passionate when he was speaking and it’s sad to hear.”