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Sir Robert "Bobby" Charlton CBE (born 11 October 1937 in Ashingtonmarker, Northumberlandmarker) is an Englishmarker former professional football player who won the World Cup and was named the European Footballer of the Year in 1966. He played almost all of his club football at Manchester United, where he became renowned for his attacking instincts from midfield and his ferocious long-range shot. His elder brother Jack, who was also in the World Cup-winning team, was a former defender for Leeds United and coach.

He began to play for United's first team in 1956, and over the next two seasons gained a regular place in the team, during which time he survived the Munich air disastermarker of 1958. After helping United to win the Football League in 1965, he won a World Cup medal with England in 1966 and another Football League title with United the following year. In 1968, he captained the Manchester United team that won the European Cup, scoring two goals in the final to help his team be the first English side to win the competition. He has scored more goals for England and United than any other player. He had made more appearances for Manchester United than any other player (758 ), a record superseded by Ryan Giggs at the Champions League Final in Moscow on 21 May 2008. However, Charlton still owns the club record for most league appearances with 606, and is considered by many to be one of the greatest English players of all time.

At the time of his retirement from the England team in 1970, he was the nation's most capped player, having turned out 106 times at the highest level. This record has since been eclipsed by Bobby Moore, Peter Shilton and then David Beckham.

He left Manchester United in 1973, becoming player-manager of Preston North End, but decided management was not for him and left after one season. After assuming the post of the director at Wigan Athletic for some time, he became a member of Manchester United's board of directors in 1984 and remains one as of November 2009. He set goalscoring records for both the England team and Manchester United, with both records remaining intact some 35 years after the end of his playing career. He was knighted in 1994.

Early life

Charlton was related to several professional footballers on his mother's side of the family: his uncles were Jack Milburn (Leeds United and Bradford City), George Milburn (Leeds United and Chesterfield), Jim Milburn (Leeds United and Bradford City) and Stan Milburn (Chesterfield, Leicester City and Rochdale), and legendary Newcastle United and England footballer Jackie Milburn was his mother's cousin. However, Charlton credits much of the early development of his career to his grandfather Tanner and his mother Cissie. His elder brother, Jack, initially went to work applying to the Police Service before also becoming a professional footballer with Leeds United.

On 9 February 1953, Bedlington Grammar School pupil Charlton was spotted playing for East Northumberland schools by Manchester United chief scout Joe Armstrong. Charlton went on to play for England schoolboys, and despite offers that followed from several other clubs, the 15-year-old signed with United on 1 January 1953, along with Wilf McGuinness, also aged 15. Initially his mother was reluctant to let him commit to an insecure football career, so he began an apprenticeship as an electrical engineer; however he went on to turn professional in October 1954.

Charlton became one of the famed Busby Babes, the collection of precociously talented footballers who emerged through the system at Old Traffordmarker in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s as Matt Busby set about a long-term plan of rebuilding the club after the Second World War. He worked his way through the pecking order of teams, scoring regularly for the youth and reserve sides before he was handed his first team debut against Charlton Athletic in October 1956. At the same time, he was doing his National Service in Shrewsburymarker, where Busby had advised him to apply as it meant he could still play for United at the weekend. Also doing his army service in Shrewsbury at the same time was his United team-mate Duncan Edwards.

Joining the first team

Charlton played 14 times for United in that first season. They won the League championship but were denied the 20th century's first "double" when they controversially lost the 1957 FA Cup final to Aston Villa. Charlton, still only 19, was selected for the game which saw United goalkeeper Ray Wood carried off with a broken cheekbone after a clash with Villa centre forward Peter McParland. Though Charlton was a candidate to go in goal to replace Wood (in the days before substitute, and certainly before goalkeeping substitutes), it was team-mate Jackie Blanchflower who ended up between the posts.

Charlton was an established player by the time the next season was fully underway, which saw United, as current League champions, become the first English team to compete in the European Cup. Previously, the Football Association had scorned the competition but United made progress, reaching the semi finals where they lost to holders Real Madrid. Their reputation was further enhanced the next season as they reached the quarter finals to play Red Star Belgrade. In the first leg at home, United won 2–1. The return in Yugoslaviamarker saw Charlton score twice as United stormed 3–0 ahead although the hosts came back to earn a 3–3 draw. However, United maintained their aggregate lead to reach the last four and were in jubilant mood as they left to catch their flight home, thinking of an important League game against Wolves at the weekend.


The aeroplane which took the United players and staff home from Zemun Airportmarker needed to stop in Munichmarker to refuel. This was carried out in worsening weather, and by the time the refuelling was complete and the call was made for the passengers to re-board the aircraft, the wintry showers had taken hold and snow had settled heavily on the runway and around the airport. There were two aborted take-offs which led to concern on board, and the passengers were advised by a stewardess to disembark again while a minor technical error was fixed.

Back in the airport terminal for barely ten minutes, the call to reconvene on the plane came and a number of passengers began to feel nervous. Charlton and team-mate Dennis Viollet swapped places with Tommy Taylor and David Pegg, who had decided they would be safer at the back of the plane.

The plane clipped the fence at the end of the runway on its next take-off attempt and a wing tore through a nearby house, setting it alight. The wing and part of the tail came off and hit a tree and a wooden hut spinning along the snow until coming to a halt. It had been cut in half.

Charlton, strapped into his seat, had fallen out of the cabin and when United goalkeeper Harry Gregg (who had somehow got through a hole in the plane unscathed and begun a one-man rescue mission) found him, he thought he was dead. That said, he grabbed both Charlton and Viollet by their trouser waistbands and dragged them away from the plane in constant fear that it would explode. Gregg returned to the plane to try to help the appallingly injured Busby and Blanchflower and when he turned around again, he was relieved to see that Charlton and Viollet, both of whom he had presumed to be dead, had got out of their detached seats and were looking into the wreckage.

Charlton suffered cuts to his head and severe shock and was in hospital for a week. Seven of his team-mates had perished at the scene, including Taylor and Pegg, with whom he and Viollet had swapped seats prior to the fatal take-off attempt. Club captain Roger Byrne was also killed, along with Mark Jones, Billy Whelan, Eddie Colman and Geoff Bent. Duncan Edwards died a fortnight later from the injuries he had sustained. In total, the crash claimed 23 lives. Initially, ice on the wings was blamed, but another inquiry later declared that slush on the runway had made the plane's facility to achieve a safe take-off almost impossible.

Charlton was the first survivor to leave hospital. He arrived back in Manchestermarker on 14 February 1958, eight days after the crash. As he convalesced, he spent some time kicking a ball around with local youths and a famous photograph of him was taken. He was still only 20 years old, yet now there was an expectation that he would help with the rebuilding of the club as Busby's aides tried to piece together what remained of the season.

Not unexpectedly, United went out of the European Cup to Milan in the semi finals to a 5–2 aggregate defeat and fell behind in the League. Yet somehow they reached their second consecutive FA Cup final and the big day at Wembley coincided with Busby's return to work. His words could not inspire a side which was playing on a nation's goodwill and sentiment, and Nat Lofthouse scored twice to give a "professional" Bolton Wanderers side a 2–0 win, including a shoulder charge over the line of the goalkeeper in possession, which today would have counted as a yellow card, not a goal, and even then considered by many as invalid.

Hero of United & England

At the same time, Charlton's emergence as the country's leading young football talent was completed when he was called up to join the England squad for a British Home Championship game against Scotland at Hampden Parkmarker. It would be the start of a long, prolific, record-breaking and globally respected career for his country.

Charlton was handed his debut as England romped home 4–0, with the new player gaining even more admirers after scoring a magnificent thumping volley dispatched with authority after a cross by the left winger Tom Finney. He scored both goals in his second game as England beat Portugal 2–1 in a friendly at Wembley; and overcame obvious nerves on a return to Belgrademarker to play his third match against Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, England lost that game 5–0 and Charlton played poorly. He was selected for the squad which competed at the 1958 World Cup in Swedenmarker, but didn't kick a ball, something at which critics expressed surprise and bewilderment, even allowing for his lacklustre performance in Belgrade.

Charlton began to settle back into his footballing life with Manchester United and England and enhanced his reputation as a scorer of great goals as well as a great goalscorer – rarely is a player regarded as both. In 1959 he scored a hat-trick as England demolished the USA 8–1; and his second England hat-trick came in 1961 in an 8–0 thrashing of Mexico. He also managed to score in every British Home Championship tournament he played in except 1963 in an association with the tournament which lasted from 1958 to 1970 and included 16 goals and ten tournament victories (five shared).

He played in qualifiers for the 1962 World Cup in Chilemarker against Luxembourg and Portugal and was named in the squad for the finals themselves. His goal in the 3–1 group win over Argentina was his 25th for England in just 38 appearances, but his individual success could not be replicated by that of the team, which was eliminated in the quarter final by Brazil, who went on to win the tournament.

Further success with Manchester United came at last when they beat Leicester City 3–1 in the FA Cup final of 1963, with Charlton finally earning a winners' medal in his third final. Busby's post-Munich rebuilding programme continued to progress with two League championships within three seasons, with United taking the title in 1965 and 1967. In between, there was the pressing matter for Charlton of the 1966 World Cup for which England, as hosts, had not needed to qualify. A successful (though trophyless) season with Manchester United had seen him take the honours of Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year and European Footballer Of The Year into the competition.

By now, England were coached by Alf Ramsey who had managed to gain sole control of the recruitment and team selection procedure from the committee-based call-up system which had lasted up to the previous World Cup. Ramsey had already cleared out some of the older players who had been reliant on the loyalty of the committee for their continued selection – it was well known that decorum on the pitch at club level had been just as big a factor in playing for England as ability and form. Luckily for Charlton, he had all three.

Charlton had remained the attacking midfield player, with Ramsey planning to build a team around him. He was still scoring and creating freely and as the tournament was about to start, he was expected to become one of its stars and galvanise his established reputation as one of the world's best footballers.

1966: World Cup Glory

England drew the opening game of the tournament 0–0 with Uruguay, and Charlton scored the first goal in the 2–0 win over Mexico. This was followed by an identical scoreline against France, allowing England to qualify for the quarter finals.

England defeated Argentina 1–0 – the game was the only one in which Charlton received a caution – and faced Portugal in the semi finals. This turned out to be one of Charlton's most important games for England.

Charlton opened the scoring with a crisp side-footed finish after a run by Roger Hunt had forced the Portuguese goalkeeper out of his net; his second was a sweetly struck shot after a run and pull-back from Geoff Hurst. Charlton and Hunt were now England's joint-highest scorers in the tournament with three each, and a final against West Germany beckoned.

The final turned out to be one of Charlton's quieter days; he and a young Franz Beckenbauer effectively marked each other out of the game. England won 4–2 after extra time.

European glory

Charlton's next England game was his 75th as England beat Northern Ireland; 2 caps later and he had become England's second most-capped player, behind the veteran Billy Wright, who was approaching his 100th appearance when Charlton was starting out and ended with 105 caps.

In 1968, Manchester United reached the European Cup final, ten seasons after Munich. Even though other clubs had taken part in the competition in the intervening decade, the team which got to this final was still the first English side to do so. On a highly emotional night at Wembley, Charlton scored twice in a 4–1 win after extra time against Benfica and, as United captain, lifted the trophy. Weeks later he scored his 45th England goal in a friendly against Sweden, breaking the record of 44 set the previous year by Jimmy Greaves. He was then in the England team which made it to the semi-finals of the 1968 European Championships where they were knocked out by Yugoslavia in Florencemarker but he did not play in the semi-final itself having picked up an injury in a friendly against Sweden. England defeated the Soviet Union 2–0 in the third place match.

In 1969, Charlton was awarded the OBE for services to football. More milestones followed as he won his 100th England cap on 21 April 1970 against Northern Ireland, and was made captain by Ramsey for the occasion. Inevitably, he scored. This was his 48th goal for his country – his 49th and final goal would follow a month later in a 4–0 win over Colombia during a warm-up tour for the 1970 World Cup, designed to get the players adapted to altitude conditions. Charlton's inevitable selection by Ramsey for the tournament made him the first – and still, to date, only – England player to feature in four World Cup squads.

World Cup 1970 and retirement from playing football

England began the tournament with two victories in the group stages, plus a memorable defeat against Brazil. Charlton played in all three, though was substituted for Alan Ball in the final game of the group against Czechoslovakia. Ramsey, confident of victory and progress to the quarter final, wanted Charlton to rest.

England duly reached the last eight where they again faced West Germany. Charlton controlled the midfield and suppressed Beckenbauer's runs from deep as England coasted to a 2–0 lead. Beckenbauer pulled a goal back for the Germans and Ramsey replaced the ageing and tired Charlton with Colin Bell who further tested the German keeper Maier and also provided a great cross for Geoff Hurst who uncharacteristically squandered the chance. West Germany, who had a habit of coming back from behind, eventually scored twice – a back header from Uwe Seeler made it 2–2 after which Gerd Müller's goal finished England off. England were out and, after a record 106 caps and 49 goals, Charlton decided to end his international career at the age of 32. On the flight home from Mexico, he asked Ramsey not to consider him again. His brother Jack, two years his senior but 71 caps his junior, did likewise.

Despite populist opinion the substitution did not change the game as Beckenbauer had scored before Charlton left the field, hence Charlton had failed to cancel out the German. Charlton himself conceded that the substitution did not affect the game in a BBC documentary. His caps record lasted until 1973 when Bobby Moore overtook him, and Charlton currently lies fourth in the all-time England appearances list behind Moore,David Beckham, and Peter Shilton, whose own England career began in the first game after Charlton's had ended. As of October 2008, Charlton's goalscoring record still stands.

During the early 1970s, Manchester United were no longer competing among the top teams in England, and at several stages were battling against relegation. At times, Charlton was not on speaking terms with United's other superstars George Best and Denis Law, and Best refused to play in Charlton's testimonial match against Celtic, saying that "to do so would be hypocritical". Charlton left Manchester United at the end of the 1972–73 season, having scored 249 goals and set a club record of 758 appearances, a record which Ryan Giggs broke in the 2008 UEFA Champions League Final. His goalscoring record, however, is still intact by a comfortable margin.

His last game was against Chelsea at Stamford Bridgemarker, and before the game the BBC cameras for Match Of The Day captured the Chelsea chairman handing Charlton a commemorative cigarette case.

International goals

Scores and results list England's goal tally first.

Date Venue Opponent Result Competition Scored
19 April 1958 Hampden Parkmarker, Glasgowmarker 4–0 British Home Championship 1 (1)
7 May 1958 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 2–1 Friendly match 2 (3)
4 October 1958 Windsor Parkmarker, Belfastmarker 3–3 British Home Championship 2 (5)
22 October 1958 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 5–0 Friendly match 1 (6)
11 April 1959 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 1–0 British Home Championship 1 (7)
6 May 1959 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 2–2 Friendly match 1 (8)
28 May 1959 Wrigley Fieldmarker, Los Angelesmarker 8–1 Friendly match 3 (11)
28 October 1959 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 2–3 Friendly match 1 (12)
9 April 1960 Hampden Parkmarker, Glasgowmarker 1–1 British Home Championship 1 (13)
8 October 1960 Windsor Parkmarker, Belfastmarker 5–2 British Home Championship 1 (14)
15 October 1960 Stade Municipal, Luxembourg-Villemarker 9–0 1962 FIFA World Cup qualification 3 (17)
23 November 1960 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 5–1 British Home Championship 1 (18)
10 May 1961 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 8–0 Friendly match 3 (21)
28 September 1961 Highburymarker, Londonmarker 4–1 1962 FIFA World Cup qualification 2 (23)
22 November 1961 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 1–1 British Home Championship 1 (24)
2 June 1962 Estadio El Tenientemarker, Rancaguamarker 3–1 1962 FIFA World Cup 1 (25)
29 May 1963 Tehelné Polemarker, Bratislavamarker 4–2 Friendly match 1 (26)
2 June 1963 Zentralstadionmarker, Leipzigmarker 2–1 Friendly match 1 (27)
5 June 1963 St. Jakob-Parkmarker, Baselmarker 8–1 Friendly match 3 (30)
12 October 1963 Ninian Parkmarker, Cardiffmarker 4–0 British Home Championship 1 (31)
17 May 1964 Estádio Nacionalmarker, Lisbonmarker 4–3 Friendly match 1 (32)
27 May 1964 Downing Stadiummarker, New Yorkmarker 10–0 Friendly match 1 (33)
11 April 1965 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 2–2 British Home Championship 1 (34)
20 October 1965 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 2–3 Friendly match 1 (35)
2 April 1966 Hampden Parkmarker, Glasgowmarker 4–3 British Home Championship 1 (36)
4 May 1966 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 2–0 Friendly match 1 (37)
16 June 1966 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 2–0 1966 FIFA World Cup 1 (38)
26 July 1966 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 2–1 1966 FIFA World Cup 2 (40)
16 November 1966 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 5–1 British Home Championship 1 (41)
21 October 1967 Ninian Parkmarker, Cardiffmarker 2–1 British Home Championship 1 (42)
22 November 1967 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 2–0 British Home Championship 1 (43)
3 April 1968 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 1–0 1968 UEFA European Football Championship qualifier 1 (44)
22 May 1968 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 3–1 Friendly match 1 (45)
8 June 1968 Stadio Olimpicomarker, Romemarker 2–0 1968 UEFA European Football Championship 1 (46)
7 May 1969 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 2–1 British Home Championship 1 (47)
21 April 1970 Empire Stadium, Wembleymarker 3–1 British Home Championship 1 (48)
20 May 1970 Estadio El Campínmarker, Bogotámarker 4–0 Friendly match 1 (49)

After playing football

Charlton became the player-manager of Preston North End in 1973, taking United and England team-mate Nobby Stiles with him as player-coach, but his first season ended in relegation and although he began playing again he left at the end of the following season. However, he was awarded the CBE that year and began a casual association with the BBC for punditry on matches which continued for many years. In 1975 he scored 18 goals in 31 appearances for Waterford United.

In 1978 he made 1 appearance for Shrewsbury Town in a friendly against The Zambia national team at Gay Meadowmarker, Shrewsburymarker.

He then joined Wigan Athletic as a director, and was briefly caretaker manager there. He then spent some time playing in South Africa. He also built up several businesses in areas such as travel, jewellery and hampers, and ran soccer schools in the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and China. In 1984, he was invited to become member of the board of directors at Manchester United, partly because of his football knowledge and partly because it was felt that the club needed a "name" on the board after the resignation of Sir Matt Busby. He remains a director of Manchester United as of 2009 and his continued presence was a factor in placating many fans opposed to the club's takeover by Malcolm Glazer. Charlton led the Manchester United side in receiving the European Cup in 2008, 50 years on from the Munich air disaster – Charlton initially refused UEFA President Michel Platini's offer of a winners' medal, having not participated in the match itself.

Charlton was also at Barcelona in 1999 when Manchester won the Champions League during that year.

Charlton helped to promote Manchester's bids for the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games and the 2002 Commonwealth Games, England's bid for the 2006 FIFA World Cup and Londonmarker's successful bid for the 2012 Olympic Games. He received a knighthood in 1994 and was an Inaugural Inductee to the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002. On accepting his award he commented “I’m really proud to be included in the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame. It’s a great honour. If you look at the names included I have to say I couldn’t argue with them. They are all great players and people I would love to have played with." He is also the (honorary) president of the National Football Museummarker, an organisation about which he said “I can’t think of a better Museum anywhere in the world.”. On 14 December 2008 Charlton was awarded the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.

On 2 March 2009, Charlton was given the freedom of the city of Manchester, stating "I'm just so proud, it's fantastic. It's a great city. I have always been very proud of it."

Charlton is involved in a number of charitable activities including fund raising for cancer hospitals , and the land mine clearance charity Mines Advisory Group .

Miscellaneous & family life

He met his wife, Norma Ball, at an ice rink in Manchester and they married in 1961. They have two daughters – Suzanne and Andrea. Suzanne was a weather forecaster for the BBC during the 1990s.

In 2007, while publicising his forthcoming autobiography, Charlton revealed that he has a long-running feud with his brother, Jack. They have rarely spoken since a falling-out between his wife Norma and his mother Cissie (who died in 1996 at the age of 84). It would appear that the two brothers are again on speaking terms, as Jack presented him with his BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award on 14 December 2008. He said that he was 'knocked out' as he was presented the award by his brother. He received a standing ovation as he stood waiting for his prize.

Charlton began to lose his hair in the early 1960s and for a while refused to go bald gracefully, sporting a style of stranded, isolated hairs which would often flop around when he was running before he would tug them back over his head. This style is today still known as "the Bobby Charlton Comb-Over".





Manchester United




  1. Charlton 2007, p.19
  2. Charlton 2007, p.62
  3. Charlton 2007, p.70
  4. PNHS Press release, Sir Bobby's Hole In One For Christie's [1]
  5. Yean Maly, CAMBODIA: Sir Bobby Charlton and Tony Hawk fly in, [2]

External links

Manchester United
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