Appointment of Jack Charlton as Ireland Manager
It came as a major surprise when the former English 1966 World Cup winner, Jack Charlton, was a appointed to the position of Irish manager in 1986 by the FAI.
Right up to the meeting of the FAI selection committee, that saw his appointment, Charlton was being talked about as also-ran. In fact it is generally accepted that it was a quirk of fate that Jack Charlton OBE became the first non-Irish manager of the Republic of Ireland soccer team.
The FAI was bitterly divided on who should be the next manager and following a series of compromises and five ballots Charlton ended in the hot seat.
Soon after his appointment it emerged that the great Liverpool FC manager, Bob Paisley, had belatedly entered into the competition and journalist Peter Byrne of the Irish Times wrote shortly afterwards “…the FAI now finds itself with a manager it does not want.”
The FAI Appointment Process
The end of the Eoin Hand era was approaching and as results worsened the Irish football fans fell away in ever increasing numbers. The smallest ever crowd for an Irish international match occurred on the 8th August 1984. Less that 6,000 fans turned up at Dalymount Park to watch Ireland and Mexico play out a meaningless 0-0 friendly. The FAI’s coffers were bare and Irish international football was in disarray.
Former FAI President, Des Casey, suggested that there was a need to really shake things up and look further afield for the manager to replace Eoin Hand. He had been impressed by the success of the Northern Ireland team that had qualified for the 1982 and 1986 World Cup Finals. Northern Ireland had been managed by the great Billy Bingham who was based in Stockport in England.
Casey had contacted Liverpool FC to enquire about the availability of Bob Paisley, who had recently stepped down as Liverpool manager. Casey was told that Paisley was not, nor would be, available. The FAI Council agreed with Casey’s idea about appointing an English-based manager, thereby making it easier for the manager to get to see the Irish players in action more regularly.
At the latter end of 1985 Des Casey and Tony O’Neill (The Doc) headed over to Manchester to interview potential Irish managers. Ironically the first person they met was Jack Charlton in the former Excelsior Hotel. Next up was Ex-Manchester United player, Paddy Crerand in the Midland Hotel. The FAI duo then met a former Everton manager Gordon Lee, followed by the ex-Northern Ireland player and former Arsenal manager Terry Neil. The interview tour continued with meetings with nine-time capped Theo Foley, Celtic great Billy McNeill, and finally Johnny Giles who had moved back to England. Back in Ireland they also interviewed Liam Tuohy, Paddy Mulligan and Jim McLaughlin.
At the FAI Council meeting on a Friday in February 1986, at 80 Merrion Square, a short list of just three names – Charlton, Tuohy and John Giles – was considered for appointment to the position of Irish manager. As it went to a vote, Casey said that “…another person who shall be nameless … brought in Bob Paisley from nowhere.” Other accounts suggest that the nameless person was working at the behest of Casey who learned, after the shortlist had been finalised, that Paisley had changed his mind and was interested in the job. The late introduction caused uproar amongst the 19 man council and battle lines were firmly drawn. On the first vote Paisley received nine votes and the other candidates received three votes each. As President Casey would only get to vote if there was a tie between two candidates. Casey was just one vote short of getting his man but unfortunately for him, and Paisley, he couldn’t cast his vote yet.
A second ballot was held to eliminate a candidate and Liam Tuohy lost out. On the third ballot the votes were: Paisley 9; Charlton 5; Giles 4. This meant that the next ballot was a straight call between Paisley and Charlton. At this point Casey must have been applying the spit and polish to his casting vote that would surely have seen Bob Paisley become the next manager of the Republic of Ireland. Emotions were running very high in the chamber and the events of the evening had led to a “…growing mood of bewilderment and hostility about the surreptitious nature of the introduction of Paisley.” according to author Paul Rowan. When the fifth and final ballot results were tallied it was clear that a Paisley-ite had defected to the Charlton camp. The final result was 10-8 in Charlton’s favour. Charlie Stuart of the now-defunct Irish Press identified the defector as Colonel Tom Ryan, the Irish army’s representative with the FAI. And so it was that Jack Charlton, who received less that 16% support in the first ballot, came to be the manager of the Irish national soccer team.
Jack Charlton did not have any real expectations that he would get the job and could not be contacted by the FAI following the meeting. Consequently the FAI held a press conference to announce that Charlton would be the next Irish manager without being certain that he would accept the job.
Charlton found out that he had the job from a journalist friend and former international colleague, Jimmy Armfield. Armfield had succeeded where the FAI had failed, he tracked Charlton down to a hunting lodge in Cloverdale in Yorkshire and gave the somewhat disbelieving Charlton the news. Armfield also gave the FAI Charlton’s phone number so they could contact him to confirm the news.
During the following FAI press conference Des Casey neglected to mention Bob Paisley’s late candidacy for the position. For most Irish people the first they heard of Jack Charlton’s appointment was when Gay Byrne announced it on RTE’s Late Late Show. The news of the appointment was greeted by near silence.
Jack Charlton’s Introduction to the Irish Media
Immediately after Charlton’s appointment as the Irish team manager the general public and the media were somewhat at a loss of what to make of it. Reflecting the reaction of the Late Late Show audience, there was a decided coolness and uncertainty.
Ironically, as things would evolve over the ensuing decade, Charlton’s only notable supporter in the media was the Sunday Tribune’s Eamon Dunphy when he wrote “Leadership … has been restored to Irish football at international level. Decentskinsmanship has finally been dispensed with.” The honeymoon period, such as it was, between Dunphy and Charlton didn’t even last a week.
Towards the end of the FAI press conference, to introduce the new Irish manager to the media, journalist Peter Byrne asked Des Casey about the Bob Paisley part of the election process. In an attempt to help out his new boss Charlton waded in and said that Casey didn’t have to answer that question. Eamon Dunphy begged to differ on the basis that it was in the public interest. Charlton recognised Dunphy and accused him of being a troublemaker. As the encounter escalated Charlton invited the diminutive Eamon Dunphy outside to settle their differences. As Tom Humphries said “Jack Charlton didn’t mean that the air-conditioning and acoustics outside would improve the quality of the discourse. He meant that outside was the place to settle the issue so that things inside wouldn’t get broken or damaged in the process.”