Jack Charlton – Irish Soccer Manager
In February 1986 Jack Charlton was chosen as the manager of the Republic of Ireland football team following the resignation of Eoin Hand. He was the first non-Irishman to be appointed to the position. The appointment of Charlton as Irish manager was very controversial and involved a lot of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes in the FAI.
There was a mixed reaction from the general public but if Irish supporters had any idea of the unprecedented success that he would bring he would have greeted with open arms.
Jack Charlton Football Background
Jack Charlton was born in Northumberland, England on 8 May 1935. He is part of a famous English footballing family that included his uncle, Jackie Milburn, and his brother Bobby Charlton of Manchester United. He played for just one club throughout his career – Leeds United. With Leeds he enjoyed tremendous success under manager Don Revie. With the club he won winners medals for the League Championship, FA Cup, League Cup, and the UEFA Cup.
At the age of almost 30 he won his first cap for England one year before the 1966 World Cup. Alf Ramsey, the English manager, was impressed enough to build his defence around Charlton and Bobby Moore for the World Cup. Jack Charlton and Bobby Charlton went on to win the Final against West Germany with Geoff Hurst scoring a hat trick. In total Charlton won 35 caps for England. Jack Charlton finished his playing career in 1973 having played for Leeds United on 629 occasions and having scored 70 goals.
Jack Charlton – Football Manager
Jack Charlton started in football management with Second Division club Middlesboro in 1973. He was an instant success gaining promotion for the club in his first season. He resigned from the Middlesboro job in 1977 and was an unsuccessful applicant for the vacant job as manager of the English soccer team. Charlton went on to manage Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United. He quit football club management to pursue his leisure time activities of fishing and hunting.
Jack Charlton as Republic of Ireland Manager
In 1986 Jack Charlton was appointed as the manager of the Republic of Ireland football team. His appointment was almost by default as he was a compromise appointment when some members of the FAI couldn’t get their preferred choice, former Liverpool FC manager Bob Paisley, elected. His appointment, which was announced to the Irish public by TV presenter Gay Byrne on his Late Late Show, was greeted in a somewhat muted fashion. Irish fans just didn’t know what to make of the gruff and blunt-speaking Englishman.
Jack Charlton’s First Match as Irish Football Manager
On the 26th March 1986 Jack Charlton fielded his first Irish team at Lansdowne Road (now Aviva Stadium) against Wales. The Welsh won this friendly encounter 0-1 with Ian Rush scoring the only goal. The match was also notable because Welsh Goalkeeper, Neville Southall, broke his ankle as he landed awkwardly after collecting a cross. This match was also notable for the fact that John Aldridge and Ray Houghton made their Irish debuts.
Developments During the Jack Charlton Management Era
Jack Charlton football style was much more direct than his predecessor John Giles. The Giles approach had been based upon retaining possession and building attacks slowly from defence. Charlton adopted a much more direct approach, often referred to as route one, which many fans found a refreshing change.
Another development during Jack Charlton’s time as Irish manager was even greater exploitation of the infamous Granny Rule. Charlton supplemented a core of talented players such as Frank Stapleton, Liam Brady, David O’Leary, Paul McGrath and Mark Lawrenson with new recruits such as Aldridge, Houghton, and Andy Townsend.
Ireland Win Tournament in Iceland
Following a second friendly match with Uruguay, that ended in a 1-1 draw, Charlton took the Irish squad to Iceland to participate in a triangular football tournament. In this tournament Ireland recorded it’s first victories under Jack Charlton as manager. On the 25th May 1986 Ireland beat Iceland 2-1 with goals from Paul McGrath and Gerry Daly. This was followed two days later by a 1-0 victory over Czechoslovakia thus earning Ireland’s first trophy in senior football.
Euro 1988 Qualification Campaign
Ireland’s first competitive match with Jack Charlton as manager was away to Belgium in the 1988 Euro qualifiers. Goals from Frank Stapleton and Liam Brady earned Ireland a creditable draw. The rest of the results in the campaign were quite mixed including two scoreless draws with Scotland and Belgium at home, and a narrow 2-1 win over minnows Luxembourg. Crucially Ireland did beat table-toppers Bulgaria in the last Irish match of the campaign however all Bulgaria needed was draw with Scotland in Sofia to go through to the Euro finals on goal difference.
A goal by Scotland’s Gary Mackay consigned the Bulgarians to second place in the group behind the Republic of Ireland. It was Mackay’s debut and it was the only goal that he ever scored for Scotland. While not that significant in Scotland’s football history, Gary Mackay’s goal was hugely important to Irish football history. Ireland had qualified for it’s first major finals.
Euro 88 Finals
The Irish football team, managed by English World Cup winner Jack Charlton, was drawn in a group including England, USSR, and the Netherlands. Ireland’s first match in a major finals was against England. On the 12th of June 1988 Ireland beat the English in Stuttgart, Germany. In a never-to-be-forgotten match Ireland defied the odds and triumphed through a goal by current TV football pundit Ray Houghton. Ireland were effectively eliminated by the eventual winners, the Netherlands, by a late and slightly fortuitous goal by Vim Kieft.
1990 World Cup Qualification Campaign
Following on from the team’s heroics at Euro 88 hopes were high that Jack Charlton could lead Ireland to a first World Cup Finals competition. Ireland drew Spain, Hungary, Malta, and neighbours Northern Ireland in Group 6 with two to qualify for the finals in Italy. Following a dull 0-0 draw in Windsor Park against Northern Ireland Charlton’s side lost 2-0 away to Spain. An inauspicious start but these were the only goals that Ireland would concede in the group. A comfortable 2-0 away win in Malta in the group meant that Jack Charlton had led Ireland to qualification for it’s first World Cup finals ever.
Jack Charlton and Ireland in the 1990 World Cup Finals
For the second major tournament in a row Ireland drew England in the group stages. Holland and Egypt were also in the group. Once again Ireland were drawn to play England in the opening match. An early goal from Gary Lineker gave England a first half lead however a low drive in the second half from Kevin Sheedy earned Charlton’s team a share of the spoils. This was followed by draws with Egypt and Holland. The former result and the manner of the Irish performance led to a long distance, and long term, spat between Jack Charlton and Eamon Dunphy. Amazingly Ireland qualified for the knockout stages on the back of three draws.
Ireland were drawn to play Romania in the last 16 stage. On 25th June 1990 in the Luis Ferraris Stadium in Genoa Ireland and Romania played out a 0-0 stalemate after 120 minutes of football. In the ensuing penalty shoot-out Irish manager Jack Charlton allowed the players to decide who would take the penalties. After the first eight penalties the score stood at 4-4. Kevin Sheedy, Ray Houghton, Andy Townsend, and Tony Cascarino had all been successful with their spot-kicks. Romania’s Daniel Timofte stepped up to take their fifth penalty. He drove his shot to Irish goalkeeper, Packie Bonner’s, right but Bonner guessed right for the fifth time but this time he got to the ball and pulled off a great save. David O’Leary stepped up to take Ireland’s fifth penalty. He was only on the pitch because he had come on as a substitute for Steve Staunton during extra time and, he had never taken a penalty before. O’Leary stepped up and confidently stroked the ball into the net sending Romanian keeper Silviu Lung the wrong way.
Ireland were through to the 1990 World Cup quarter finals on the back of four consecutive draws – a World Cup record – and were due to play the hosts Italy in Rome. This was the end of the road for Ireland in the World Cup finals as a goal by Toto Schillaci in the second half meant that the Irish were heading home to a hero’s welcome.
Euro 1992 Qualification Campaign
The Irish, managed by Englishman Jack Charlton, were pitted against England for the third competition in a row when Ireland ended up in a group that included the English, Poland and Turkey for the Euro 1992 qualifiers. With only one team to qualify it was a tall order for Ireland to emerge from group seven. Despite earning two draws with group winners England, and having a superior goal difference, Ireland were runners-up missing out by a single point.
1994 World Cup Qualification Campaign
Group three of the 1994 World Cup qualifiers saw Jack Charlton’s charges drawn with Spain, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Albania. Ireland got off to positive start with three home wins and two away draw with the main rivals in the group, Spain and Denmark. This good start was undone when Ireland could only draw with Denmark at Lansdowne Road, and then were well beaten 1-3 by the Spanish in Dublin. Qualification came down to the away match in Belfast against Northern Ireland. On a spite-filled night at Windsor Park Ireland came within 14 minutes of elimination. A late goal from Jimmy Quinn looked to have sealed Ireland’s fate until Alan McLoughlin snatched a late draw for the Republic. There were some ugly exchanges between Jack Charlton and Northern Ireland manager, Billy Bingham, however after the match Charlton had the comfort of knowing that his Irish team had qualified for the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Ireland had eclipsed an unfortunate Denmark by the number of goals scored by Ireland during the campaign.
1994 World Cup Finals
Playing back-to-back matches against the same opponents in consecutive World Cups is a rarity but that is how Jack Charlton’s Irish team began it’s participation in the 1994 World Cup. Italy, who had ended Ireland’s participation in the 1990 World Cup, were first up in Ireland’s group in the USA at Giants Stadium in New Jersey on 18th June. The Irish gained sweet revenge by reversing the scoreline when the teams last met through a sublime goal from Ray Houghton. It could have been two if John Sheridan’s brilliant strike had dipped under the crossbar rather hitting it. It was a brilliant team performance by Jack Charlton’s men with excellent performances from Roy Keane and Paul McGrath. There were times when McGrath seemed to be blocking everything that the Italians could throw at Ireland as the Irish held out for their first ever victory over Italy.
There was disappointment in the next match against Mexico in the searing heat of Orlando, Florida as the Central Americans won 2-1. Crucially substitute John Aldridge scored the Irish goal which would ultimately prove instrumental in sending Ireland into the next round. In the last match of the group Ireland played out a disappointing 0-0 draw against Norway in New Jersey but it was enough to see Ireland through to the knockout rounds. Jack Charlton was forced to watch the Norway match from the ITV box due to a FIFA ban following an argument with a FIFA official during the Mexico match.
In the next round Ireland were drawn against the Netherlands in Orlando. The Irish did not handle the heat as well as the Dutch and due to two defensive errors Ireland lost the match 2-0. It was a sad exit for Charlton’s Ireland side who rarely made such errors but any objective analysis clearly shows that the Netherlands were deserving winners.
1996 Euro Qualification Campaign
Many Irish supporters expected that Jack Charlton would resign as Irish football manager following the exit from the World Cup. Despite this Charlton chose lead Ireland into the Euro 1996 qualifiers. In a large group that included Portugal, Austria, Northern Ireland, Latvia, the minnows of Liechtenstein, the Irish had some mixed results. Ireland had a resounding 4-0 victory over Northern Ireland in Windsor Park and a home win over group winners Portugal. These wins were mixed with a 0-3 beating in Portugal, home and away 3-1 losses to Austria, and most disappointingly of all, the Irish could only draw 0-0 away to Liechtenstein. Ireland finished runners-up in the group, a full six points behind Portugal and ahead of Northern Ireland based upon results between the two Irish teams.
Jack Charlton Quits as Irish Football Manager
Following the Euro 96 qualifiers Ireland drew Holland in the play-offs. A single play-off match was played at a neutral venue – Anfield in Liverpool – on 13th December 1995. On a bitterly cold night, that was charged with high emotion, Jack Charlton took charge of the Irish soccer team for the last time. Yet again the Dutch ran out 2-0 victors as they outclassed an ageing Irish team. As Patrick Kluivert rammed home his second goal the Irish fans present realised that they were witnessing the end of the Charlton-Ireland era.
The crowd knew that a sporting love affair was coming to an end and spent the rest of the match chanting and singing tributes to the most successful Irish football manager ever. The Dutch fans were bemused by the apparently contradictory reaction by the Irish fans to their team’s defeat. After the match Jack Charlton came back out on to the pitch to bid an emotional farewell to the travelling Irish support.
In an international career that spanned more than ten years he turned a sceptical public into adoring fans. Charlton led the Irish team to the finals of three major competitions, won the country’s first senior soccer trophy, and took the team to a record sixth place in the FIFA rankings. He managed Ireland to historic victories over England, Italy and Brazil, amongst others. On 21 December 1995 Jack Charlton resigned as manager of the Republic of Ireland football team.
Jack Charlton’s Record as Irish Manager
* Match abandoned after 27 minutes due to rioting by some English fans
Republic of Ireland Football Managers – Irish Manager’s Records
Mick Meagan – Liam Tuohy – Sean Thomas – John Giles – Alan Kelly Snr – Eoin Hand – Jack Charlton
Irish Football Players
John Aldridge – George Best – Packie Bonner – Liam Brady – Shay Brennan – Noel Cantwell – Johnny Carey