“Sir Bobby Charlton” by DFID – UK Department for International Development is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Bobby Charlton had an illustrious career. He won 106 caps for England, lifted the World Cup in 1966 and was the country’s record goalscorer for 45 years.
In the 17 years he spent at Manchester United, Charlton won the First Division Championship, FA Cup and European Cup and was part of a feared forward trio with George Best and Denis Law.
As well as winning those honours whilst playing for teams, he won several illustrious individual honours. He was the Golden Boot winner of the 1966 World Cup and won the Balon d’Or in the same year. On top of this, he was knighted in 1994 to go with his OBE and CBE that he was awarded during his playing career.
Tragedy struck early in Charlton’s career when a flight that he was on with his Manchester United team mates crashed just outside Munich Airport. He survived with cuts to the head and was in hospital for a week but eight of his team mates perished. Another fifteen passengers also died in the crash, which became known as the Munich Disaster.
In his first season at Manchester United, Charlton played 14 times and scored 12 goals, including a double on his debut. The following season (1956/57) was Charlton’s first full season at the club and United won the First Division title. They also reached the Cup Final but lost to Aston Villa.
Charlton was part of the young Manchester United side referred to as the ‘Busby Babes’. They would go on and qualify for the Semi Finals of the European Cup and it was after the second leg of the Quarter Final that the Munich Disaster claimed the lives of eight of his team mates’ lives.
Two months after the disaster, Charlton made his England debut in a 4-0 win over Scotland at Hampden Park. He was selected for the England squad for the World Cup in Sweden that summer, but failed to make a single appearance.
United would lose the 1958 FA Cup Final against Bolton Wanderers but would win it five years later with a 3-1 win over Leicester City in the Final at Wembley.
Charlton played in the World Cup the year before in Chile, scoring in a group stage win over Argentina. England were knocked out by eventual winners Brazil in the Quarter Final.
Charlton played a part of England’s World Cup win in 1966, scoring a long-distance thunderbolt in a group stage win over Mexico and twice in the Semi Final victory over Portugal.
A year after lifting the World Cup at Wembley, Charlton was part of the Manchester United side who won the First Division for the first time in ten years. This meant that they would qualify for the European Cup, a tournament that they would win with a 4-1 victory in Extra Time against Benfica at Wembley, with Charlton scoring twice.
England went to the World Cup in Mexico in 1970 as holders and Charlton was part of the squad who went out to defend the trophy. It was his fourth World Cup and he would have a small part to play in England’s elimination in the Quarter Final.
With England 2-1 up against West Germany, Sir Alf Ramsey opted to bring Charlton off and substitute him for Manchester City’s Colin Bell. The move backfired as England struggled with the change in style and the Germans came back to win 3-2. This was the last match that England would play in a World Cup for twelve years!
In 1973, Charlton decided that it was time to leave Manchester United and retire from playing. He became Manager of Preston North End where he would be in charge for two years.
A year after a brief stint as Caretaker-Manager of Wigan Athletic in 1983, Charlton joined the Board of Directors at Old Trafford. He stayed at the club until 2018.
Recently, it has been announced that Charlton is suffering from Dementia. Word spread quickly through the world of football and became international news. It is terribly sad to hear that such a wonderful man is suffering from something so horrible.
One thing that came about after the news broke of Charlton’s ill health was the footage of him at his best on the football field. Videos of his elegance on the ball and powerful shot reminded those that saw him play and also educated those who never knew of his talents.