Jack Charlton is Still the Godfather of Irish Football

by Maghnus Dunne

With the upcoming release of the documentary film, ‘Finding Jack Charlton’, Betting.co.uk pays tribute here to the man who put Ireland on the footballing map.

Born in Northumbria, England’s most northerly county,  Jack Charlton was a true giant of football. He and his brother Bobby were two of England’s finest ever players. Both played in the famous 1966 World Cup-winning side, still the only Englad team to ever be world champions.

Make no mistake, Jack Charlton was not even in the initial thoughts of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) when they were looking for a new manager back in 1986.

Two years into his reign as Ireland boss, the ‘lucky general’ was born. A Scottish victory in Bulgaria all thanks to Gary Mackay earned him legendary status amongst the Irish fans.

Charlton’s mannerisms, and style, with his peaked cap and grey suits cemented his place as a footballing father figure in the minds of the Irish fans.

His famous ‘put ’em under pressure’ mantra proved detrimental to the hopes of many higher-ranked opponents.

It won’t ever be disputed that his reign was the most successful in Irish football history, starting back with Euro ‘88, but his most significant achievement was unleashing the green army of Ireland fans on the international stage. They brought peace, joy and jubilance everywhere they went.

The Republic of Ireland’s success on the international stage was nothing amazing by the standards of the game’s powerhouse nations, but Charlton’s boys in green achieved a newfound respect by qualifying for Euro ’88 and the World Cups of 1990 and 1994. They reached the knock-out stages of those two World Cup tournaments too.

But it was in 1988, when Charlton oversaw the result that would do down in Irish footballing folklore for ever. That was when a single Ray Houhgton strike proved enough to defeat England, and Christy Moore wrote his iconic song ‘Joxer Goes to Stuttgart’ as a result.

Both Italia ’90 and USA ’94 produced marvellous results in Irish football history too. In Italy, the penalty shootout victory over Romania granted goalkeeper Packie Bonnar legendary status after his immense performance and heroic saves. It was veteran David O’Leary who really made Irish eyes smile when he converted the winning spot kick in Genoa.

USA ’94 featured a famous victory over Italy in New Jersey, at a sold-out Giants stadium. Once again, it was Ray Houghton who produced the goods for Jackie’s Army, with his goal being enough to defeat the Italians eight years after the famous win over the English.

While Ireland’s campaigns all sadly ended in Gelsenkirchen, Rome and then Orlando, those results were never much more than an after-thought. Jack Charlton had brought a nation so much happiness and joy on the international stage to a country divided and in conflict. This for many, was their only ray of light in decades.

For his record in ames against England alone (one win, three draws and an infamous game that was cancelled due to hooliganism) Charlton would have been held in high esteem in the Emerald Isle.

When the Aviva stadium opened back in 2015, Jack Charlton returned, 20 years after the disgraced game at Lansdowne Road, and was greeted by a standing ovation of 50,000 Irish fans, so grateful for what this icon had done for their nation.

The current state of the Irish side leaves a lot to be desired, however. Stephen Kenny’s team were demolished at Wembley last week 3-0 by England. They have scored once in the last eight fixtures and have won none of those games. They are far from the glory days of Jackie’s Army.

The hopes for a Packie Bonnar like hero in Slovakia evaporated as Ireland lost another qualifier for the Euros against the hosts on penalties. Supporters looked on in anguish at another failure.

The Republic of Ireland has seen international success with the previous two European Championships, with famous goals from Robbie Brady against Italy and France making him the Ray Houghton of the modern era.

But nothing will ever replace the magic and grace of Jack Charlton’s side. The great man’s recent passing caused pain amongst the Irish nation.

He was the Godfather of Irish Football – a man who adopted Ireland as his nation. That nation that will cherish him for eternity.

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