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Jack Charlton - The Man, The Legend

The recent passing of Jack Charlton quite fittingly brought the Sheffield Wednesday fan base together following a few seasons of acrimony in the ranks, explains Owlsonline member, Bricat. Few have generated more happy memories of the club than Big Jack. Stories abound from ex players and fans, each adding to the measure of his influence at Hillsborough. He was a one off person.

Details of his football career can be found in many places online but it is his time with us that this is about. Christened John, he was born into the footballing family, the Milburns and from that moment his destiny was sealed.

He would join Leeds, at that time possibly Yorkshire’s most under achieving club, in the 1952-53 season and played his way through the ranks into the first team. I remember vividly that old Leeds strip of gold shirt and blue sleeves and without being conscious of the fact it would be in the mid 1950s that I first saw Jack in action doing his job that he would refer to “as stopping those players who could play from doing so, by any means.” He was a vital member of the 1955/56 team promoted to the first division by virtue of being runners up to Sheffield Wednesday.

A one club man, and at 30 years old an international, Charlton learned that there were several ways to win a football match under the tutelage of Don Revie and Sir Alf Ramsey. These traits were to stand him in good stead as a club and an international manager.

As Charlton was learning his managerial trade at Middlesbrough, Wednesday were plummeting in total disarray with the failure of board room support for Derek Dooley and the ineptitude of Steve Burtenshaw. Len Ashurst at least got rid of some of the deadwood and kick started our youth system. On the pitch however, it was dire. Rumours circulated we may be considering approaching Charlton, who had resigned from Middlesborough considering four years was long enough to manage a club. After watching the game against Chesterfield, Charlton, who had made up his mind to reject the offer had a change of heart because of the reception he received from our fans.



He appointed Maurice Setters as his assistant, who in his playing days had a fearsome, uncompromising reputation. They decided to focus on high work rates, increased fitness and using tall players in the centre of defence and attack. The club finished in a comfortable mid table position but were tumbled out of the FA cup by the then Northern Premier side, Wigan.

Andy McCulloch was signed to add aerial power and to partner Tommy Tynan and with Charlton preferring height, Mick Pickering signed from Southampton, whilst Bob Bolder was handed the keepers job and Chris Turner transferred. That season saw another mid season finish and the epic five game cup tie with Arsenal.The spirit of our supporters was boosted by Jack’s enthusiasm and interviews. Never one to be beaten by the pronunciation of a player or club’s name as Mr Essubees of Portugal (Eusebio) will testify. You knew things were changing for the better at Sheffield 6.

In the summer of 1979 we ventured abroad for a signing from Yugoslavia, Ante Mirocevic, who never really settled. Stories circulated that the player we were interested in had a similar name but Jack slipped up and signed the wrong one. More significantly was the signing of Terry Curran.
After a slow start to the 79/80 season, things gradually picked up with the icing on the cake being provided on Boxing Day when a massacre occurred at Hillsborough. With that victory under our belts we went on to secure promotion and Curran was the division’s top scorer.

The youth policy energised by Ashurst was now bearing fruit with Mark Smith,Kevin Taylor, Peter Shirtliff and Mel Sterland breaking into the first team. A successful season saw us almost promoted, in fact under the old two points for a win system, we would have been.
To bolster us for the 1982/83 season, Mick Lyons joined from Everton but as injuries piled up sixth place was all we could muster. A defeat in the FA Cup semi final appeared to disappoint Big Jack and in May he tendered his resignation after breaking his four year rule. With Maurice Setters as his assistant he went on to manage the Republic of Ireland national side.

Memorable stories were left behind, never denied nor confirmed.

-Jack gave Setters one of his Bells Manager of the month gallon bottles of whisky and Setters was sat on the old roundabout at the bottom of Halifax Road.
-The youth players were invited onto a coach to North Yorkshire thinking they were going to play a match. Instead they were employed as beaters for Jack’s grouse shooting friends.
-Giving pre match instructions on how to mark a certain player. “He was transferred this week boss, He doesn’t play for them now.” Jack replied, “I bet his brother does.”
-Asking Hugh Dowd to bring all his house mate’s (Tommy Tynan) possessions to the ground and loading them into his car. Then taking Tynan for a drive. “Where are we going boss?” To which Jack replied, “Lincoln. Your new club, you were signed yesterday.”

Rest in Peace big man and thank you.  

Unread article 17/07/2020 at 18:55

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