Wherever you went in the world of football everyone knew him as “Big Jack”.
Jack had known for years that he was part of English football’s greatest dynasty.
After all, he was the big brother of Bobby Charlton, a man acclaimed as one of the greatest players on the planet during his Sixties pomp.
The Charlton boys mother was Cissie, nee Milburn, the cousin of Newcastle and England legend Jackie Milburn.
Five of their direct relatives had been professional footballers so it was little surprise when the Charlton boys went on to become pros.
But their neighbours in the Northumberland pit village of Ashington could never have guessed the fame the brothers would achieve.
Jack, born in 1935, was the elder by two years. And just as Bobby epitomised self-discipline, grace and attacking style Jack was lanky, granite-hard and belligerent.
Jack was also blunt, outspoken and passionate in declaring his views. Jack hurt Bobby when he revealed in his autobiography how the brothers had grown apart. Family disputes over their elderly mother had seen Jack and his wife Pat take over her care. He felt Bobby and his wife Norma could have done more. Their plea for help was rejected.
As youngsters Bobby and Jack had shared a bed. In later life their relationship had virtually broken down.
Jack was 15 when he turned down the first approach from Leeds. He chose to join his dad working down the local pit.
But once he’d discovered how tough life was for a coal-miner he decided to change tack. He considered becoming a policeman but then opted to have a second trial at Leeds and this time accepted their offer of a football apprenticeship.
He spent his entire playing career at Leeds, accumulating a club record 629 League appearances in his 21 years there.
He joined Leeds when they were a mediocre Second Division club. He used to joke: “We only had one good thing going for us – John Charles.”
Leeds eventually sold their Welsh superstar to Juventus and there was no hint of what was just around the corner. The appointment of Don Revie as manager in 1961 transformed their fortunes. The Revie revolution ensured that within three years Leeds were in the top flight. From there they launched a stunning campaign to be recognised as one of Europe’s most successful clubs.
Big Jack was at the very heart of the Revie team. He was the senior partner who had some of the greatest homegrown youngsters operating alongside him in the shape of Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter Peter Lorimer and Eddie Gray.
In later years Jack openly admitted Revie’s Leeds should have won more. They had been runners-up far too often.
But woe betide anybody who criticised his old mates. He was the manager of the Republic of Ireland over 20 years after retiring as a player when he joined a group of journalists in a Dublin bar for a pint of the black stuff.
One of the press men made the mistake of declaring that, in his opinion, Bremner had not been much of a player, just a kicker. Jack was outraged at the slur on his old friend and former room-mate.
Verbally he took the journalist apart, listing the epic games Bremner had won for Leeds. And at one point he was ready to step outside to sort it out. He was fiercely loyal to his old mates.
His outspoken views could get him in trouble, like the time he appeared on a TV chat show and revealed he kept a little black book of players he intended to hurt. He was charged by the FA of bringing the game into disrepute and successfully explained that he had been misquoted and that there was no black book.
In later years, when the little black book story was raised, Jack would smile, tap his forehead and say: “I didn’t need a book. The names were etched in my memory.”
The highest point of Charlton’s playing career came on July 30, 1966 when he played in England’s World Cup winning team at Wembley. At 31 he was the second oldest player in the side and while brother Bobby was the golden boy Jack had only made his England debut a year earlier.
It was an incredible honour for the Charlton brothers to be together in the only England team to win a World Cup. Soon afterwards they were were the guests of honour at a street party in Ashington where the entire community turned out to salute the boys.
Whereas Bobby’s managerial career was a flop Jack enjoyed some success with Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle. He became a national hero during his spell as Republic of Ireland boss between 1986 and 1996.
During those days it was my privilege to travel the world with Jack and the boys in green. Whenever we met up he’d come over on the scrounge saying: “Anybody got a ciggy?”
He became the most popular man in Ireland as he led the national football team to previously unknown heights such as the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals.
The Irish media pack used to have “Sing for your Supper” nights on trips when every guest could be called on to stand up and sing a song or tell a joke.
While England managers became increasingly distanced from the media, Jack would join the party and happily be the first man called on, stand up and regale the audience with a full version of Blaydon Races.
Jack never forgot his roots. He’d loved country sports as a youngster. In later life he could afford the finest shot guns and took delight in days shooting on the moors.
During his Leeds days he became close friends with the club’s President, Lord Harewood. They made an unlikely pair. George Harewood, distinguished the Queen’s first cousin and benefactor of the English National Opera, and Big Jack.
At Lord Harewood’s memorial service Jack delivered a eulogy. His final words were: “I loved George. He was me mate.”
Many people who knew Jack will feel the same way. He was rough, tough and spiky. But he was our mate.