Acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest soccer players ever and my personal soccer hero and certainly one of England’s finest players ever.
Bobby Charlton came from humble beginnings. The son of a Northumberland miner, Bobby came from a background of football, three of his uncles played for Leeds United and his mother’s cousin, was the famous Jackie Milburn super striker for Newcastle United.
But Bobby maintains that his mother was the biggest influence on his football career, it was, she who first recognized his talent but was adamant that he should also learn a trade.
It did not take him long to rise to national and world renown with Manchester United, as well as on the international soccer fields of Europe, through his repeated inclusion on the English world team.
He joined Manchester United after winning the England Schoolboy Inter- national honors award, during the time he played for the England Schoolboys he was spotted by Manchester United head talent scout Joe Armstrong, by which time Charlton at his mothers insistence had already embarked on an engineering apprenticeship. However, so great was his talent, that by the time he was just 17 in 1954 he had already turned professional.
He was a prolific goal scorer with an individualistic style of play, noted for his long runs and precision with a soccer ball. By the age of nineteen he had already played in the FA Cup Final, he was a midfield player with a powerful kick and a natural feel for soccer, a striker with great skill, accuracy and consistency.
He played as a forward for Manchester United from 1956 to 1973. After only two seasons he earned a regular place on the United first team; Charlton played 14 times for United in his first season. During his second season he was lucky to escape with his life, as he was one of only a few to walk away from the Munich air disaster of 1958. He suffered relatively minor injuries and was pulled from the planes wreckage by team-mate Harry Gregg, the crash claimed 23 lives, of which eight were Manchester United players.
In 1965 he helped United win the football league Championship. In 1966 he won a gold medal playing for the victorious English world soccer team and a second Football League title win with United the very next year. In 1968, he captained the Manchester United team that won the European Cup; he scored two goals in the final game, making his team Manchester United, the first English team to ever win the competition.
Until recently he had scored more goals for England and Manchester United than, any other player, his goal scoring records held and remained unchallenged for 35 years after the end of his professional playing career.
Only very recently on the 22nd May 2008, did Bobby Charlton’s record for most games ever played by a single player(258) for the Manchester United football club, fall at the Champions League Final in Moscow to one of Manchester United’s current players Ryan Giggs.
He retired from the England team in 1970; at which point he was England’s most capped player, having played 106 times for his nation’s first team. He left Manchester United in 1973, to become player-manager for Preston North End, taking Man United team member and personal friend Nobby Stiles with him as player-coach, after only one season he discovered he was not suited to management.
He then took on the role of director for Wigan Athletic FC. He spent a little time playing in South Africa; he started several business ventures and opened soccer schools in the UK, Canada, USA, China, and Australia. A few years later in 1984 he joined Manchester United’s board of directors and as of May 2008 still remains one.
Charlton began to go bald at the beginning of the 1960s and for a long while refused to admit the fact, he grew the hair on one side of his head long and then combed it across the balding area in order to diminish the display of bald scalp. Famed for this hair do, that would often flop around when he was running and that he would have repeatedly recapture and push back over his head as he ran. This hair style even today is still referred to as “the Bobby Charlton Comb-Over”
He was made “Sir” Bobby Charlton in 1994, for his “services as an ambassador for English football” he was the first soccer player to receive the honor in over 30 years. He was inducted to the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
For the whole length of his professional career, he was not once sent off the soccer pitch. Twenty years after his last professional appearance as a player for United, “Sir Bobby” is still remembered and revered as a supreme sportsman and gentleman footballer.