JACK CHARLTON left an indelible mark on Irish football
‘Big Jack’ was the manager who made Irish fans believe anything was possible. Charlton’s stewardship came with a first appearance in the European Championship, a famous victory over England and a place in the last eight of the World Cup.
His legacy in the Irish game is unrivaled and the subject of a new documentary Find Jack Charlton, which comes out on DVD and digital lowland on November 23. When filmmakers Gabriel Clarke and Pete Thomas first came up with the idea of a movie about Charlton, it was conceived as a chronicle of Charlton’s journey from England’s World Cup winner and Leeds United legend to honorable Irishman.
“I was thinking about Jack and the broader aspect of what he achieved with Ireland and how it was transformative for the country,” Clarke explains to The Irish Post. “That was the original premise of the film.”
Once a roving reporter at ITV Sport, Clarke contacted friend and former colleague Andy Townsend to discuss the idea. An international player from the Republic of Ireland who played under Charlton in Italia ’90 and USA ’94 and went on to serve as executive producer on the film, Townsend was the one who introduced Clarke and Thomas to Jack’s son, John Charlton.
Together, the filmmakers traveled to Charlton’s Northumberland home to meet Jack and his family. They only did it then realize the extent to which Charlton’s dementia had progressed.
“We met John and Jack in a pub and quickly realize Jack wouldn’t be able to do interviews, ”he said. Instead, Clarke decided to refocus the film as one that explored Charlton’s impact on Irish football and the impact of dementia on his life. With the help of his family, we were able to produce a film that not only had this strong historical narrative but also had a strong personal narrative to accompany it. I think as documentary filmmakers when something like that happens, it’s a challenge but it’s one of those kinds of challenges you look forward to taking on. “
The Englishman Not so typical
Through interviews with former players like Paul McGrath and Niall Quinn, Charlton’s wife Pat and everyone from the legendary Irish kit man Charlie O’Leary to U2’s Larry Mullen Clarke got a glimpse of what made Big Jack such a figure popular in Ireland.
“I think it was because he wasn’t the English they had in their minds as a typical Englishman. Jack down to earth, naturally, said he was like and loved to laugh. Those basic elements of his character matched much of the Irish character without returning too much to stereotypes. Jack would tell himself. There were no tunes and graces. ”
Conversely, Clarke believes that it was Charlton’s outspoken approach that prevented him from ever being considered for the position of English manager despite applying for the role.
“He wanted an English job but he was never going to wear the jacket the right way. But that same approach was ideal for Ireland. ”
No Inferiority Complexity
Find Jack Charlton explores his strained relationship with his brother, Bobby, who respected one another but often went years without talking.
While Jack enjoyed a great playing career that included a club record 773 appearances for Leeds and a World Cup winner medal, Bobby Charlton was a standout star for England and Manchester United.
Some siblings may have struggled in such circumstances but Clarke believes Big Jack’s strength of character and his innate ability to do so maximize his own talents as a footballer not only paved the way for his own career but also made him the perfect fit for Ireland where he thrived in the role of the underdog.
“Jack would probably never admit to having any sort of inferiority complex when it came to his brother but certainly, as we discuss in the film, Ireland had inferiority complexity in terms of their relationship with England. It gave Ireland a sense of self-confidence they never had before. After Italia ’90 there was a sense of ‘If we can reach the final eight in the World Cup, we can do anything ‘”.
Charlton’s meteoric rise, bursting with victory over Euro ’88 and continuing in the 1990 World Cup with victory over a talented Romanian team in the Second Round, is chronicled throughout the film alongside the organization, spirit and fearless sense of adventure he created. not only in his team but in the fans watching ahead.
“For Jack, it was always ‘why get inferiority complex?’ It was about getting the team to believe in their own identity because that had great strength. He played into that and played into elements of Irish sports culture in Gaelic football and hurling and this idea of ’up and at them’ which is part of the way Irish sport is played. play, which was incorporated along with much thought as to how the team could be set up tactically. “
Alongside the sense of unity he embodied in the team, the documentary also details Charlton’s unique man-management skills with the arrival of players like McGrath, who speak with respect and admiration for their former boss. Charlton’s talent as a manager went beyond this though.
The documentary also attempts to dispel some of the myths surrounding Charlton’s time in Irish care, especially his tactical approach that drew strong criticism from critics like Eamon Dunphy at the time – much to Charlton’s grievance.
“I think I might have agreed before making the documentary that Irish tactics are a bit simplistic,” Clarke admits. “As for his long ball approach. But doing the interviews with people like Niall Quinn and then seeing Jack’s notes detailing his managerial philosophies and tactical approach gave a sense of how innovative he was. “
In particular, he was amazed at how progressive Charlton was, in a tactical sense, in terms of weighing.
“Jack’s tactics were ahead of their time in 1988 onwards. Gegenpressing was an Irish pressing game [a counter-pressing approach popularised by Jurgen Klopp] and Jack was doing it first and was doing it in a way that also benefited the Irish sports character. “
“In the best of those days, including up to 1990, there was an innovation and tactical approach that some of the great managers couldn’t get their head around – including England, which never beat Jack’s Ireland – so I believe it deserves more credit. I hope the notes in particular convey the true sense of a mind controller and not this guy who should be brushed with a ‘oh it’s a long ball game’ destination. “
Representation of the Mind
One of the most striking aspects of the film comes in the way Clarke and Thomas present the many notes written by Jack throughout his time as manager of Ireland covering everything from the fact that he was “not imprest” [sic]”by David O’Leary to his belief that he must” bea dictator, but be nice. “
Offers unique insight into his game plans, views on players and man-control philosophies, the filmmakers spent what Clarke estimates was “probably a good 48 hours” sorting through the handwritten pieces of paper to produce a striking memorial to his life’s work. Presented on one pillar plastered in notes of all shapes and sizes, this unique piece of installation art helped give Clarke “Jack’s sense of thought process”.
“It’s always nice to have a visual foundation that gives you a sense of inner world. Obviously in relation to Jack’s dementia, we had some lovely interviews from Jack in the archive which allowed him to tell most of the story we did also use these notes. Putting them on single slides didn’t do it justice. People needed to see them in a way that showed the scale. A way that almost represents his mind. Also just seeing the absolute wonder of what a manager can put together in his career, the notes he leaves behind, I really liked this physical aspect. “
“Football gave Jack everything”
Find Jack Charlton filmed over the last 18 months of Big Jack’s life and although he makes no mention of the eventual lymphoma he eventually had, he addresses the devastating effect that dementia had on his senses. A film of Jack at his charismatic best, dropping dry quizzes during interviews, brimming with difficult reporters and leading his players in a post-World Cup songstress in contrast to Jack those last few years. Some of the toughest scenes see Charlton watching pictures of himself during his best hours yet unable to remember any of it.
An idea is touched that Charlton may have developed the condition because of football but ultimately rejected it. “Obviously with any former footballer now, especially from Jack’s age, who is developing the dementia, the connection is going to be there, “said Clarke. “Jack-era players are three to five times more likely to suffer from some form of dementia. “
“But we can’t confirm that connection and Jack’s family or rather his son don’t think the link to dementia is through football. His wife is not so sure. I think they also don’t want to blame football. Football gave Jack everything in his life. “
“What we wanted to show is that dementia wasn’t defined later in life. He lived with it. He continued to live as best he could. The sad thing about dementia is that you lose your identity as you lose your memory. Hopefully people watching the film will gain an understanding of what it is like to live with that condition. “
Find Jack Charlton out on DVD and Digital Download from 23rd November.