At the age of 86, Sir Bobby Charlton, a Manchester United great and a major contributor to England’s World Cup win in 1966, passed away.
Charlton set records for his nation at the time by earning 106 caps for England and tallying 49 goals in 49 international games.
He played for United’s first team for 17 years, winning three league championships, a European Cup, and an FA Cup.
According to Charlton’s relatives, he “passed peacefully early on Saturday morning.”
He was praised as “England’s greatest player” and “an undisputed legend” as the tributes poured in.
The dementia diagnosis for Charlton was made public in November 2020.
In a statement, his family said they wanted to “pass on their thanks to everyone who has contributed to his care and for the many people who have loved and supported him” as he passed away in their presence.
The message continued, “We would request that the family’s privacy be respected at this time,” as the family expressed “great sadness” at his passing.
One of the finest and most adored players in our club’s history, according to United, was Charlton.
“Sir Bobby was a hero to millions, not just in Manchester, or the United Kingdom, but wherever football is played around the world,” the team stated.
“Sir Bobby will always be regarded as a giant of the game; he was revered as much for his sportsmanship and honesty as he was for his exceptional abilities as a football player.
“His legacy will continue via the life-changing work of the Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation, and his unmatched record of accomplishment, character, and service will be permanently inscribed in the annals of Manchester United and English football.
“The club’s heartfelt sympathies are with his wife Lady Norma, his daughters and grandchildren, and all who loved him.”
For their Premier League match against Sheffield United on Saturday night, Erik ten Hag’s current United squad donned black armbands, and both the home and away crowds applauded in honor of him before the game.
With Charlton’s passing, Sir Geoff Hurst is the last surviving member of the victorious squad. Hurst scored a hat-trick in England’s 4-2 victory over West Germany in the 1966 final.
Very terrible news today, Hurst said on X, formerly known as Twitter. Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the all-time greats, has gone away. Both of us and the entire game of football will never forget him. Beyond sports, the entire nation will miss this wonderful friend and coworker. We send our condolences to his family and friends.
Both Nobby Stiles, a fellow World Cup winner who died in October 2020, and Charlton’s older brother Jack, who went away in July 2020, had dementia.
A tale from Old Trafford
Charlton, who was born in Ashington, Northumberland, on October 11, 1937, began playing for Manchester United as a youngster in 1953. He turned professional the following year, and at the age of 18, he made his first-team debut against Charlton Athletic.
He survived the Munich plane accident in February 1958, which claimed the lives of 23 individuals, including eight of his United teammates. The incident had a significant effect on Charlton’s subsequent life.
On a subsequent return to Munich, he remarked, “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t remember what happened and the people who are gone.”
“At the time, Manchester United was going to be one of the best teams in Europe. Everything was altered by the accident. It is tragic that the players are not present and will never be evaluated. They will never age.
He became the center of reconstruction efforts under manager Sir Matt Busby.
Denis Law, George Best, and Charlton all contributed to United’s first European Cup victory in 1968. Charlton scored twice against Benfica in the championship match.
He had participated in every minute of England’s World Cup win in 1966, earning him the Ballon d’Or.
Before departing the club in May 1973, Charlton went on to smash both the scoring and appearance records at United, scoring 249 goals in 758 appearances to solidify his place among the all-time greats of British football.
These long-standing marks were subsequently surpassed by Wayne Rooney’s 253 goals and Ryan Giggs’ 963 games played.
Charlton spent two years with Preston North End as manager and player-manager after leaving Old Trafford before stepping down in August 1975.
He briefly represented the Republic of Ireland the following year before joining Wigan Athletic’s board of directors and serving for a while as temporary manager.
After being given an OBE and a CBE, he joined United in June 1984 and was made a director ten years later.
In 1958 and 1959, Charlton finished second in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
In 2016, United gave the South Stand at Old Trafford a new name in his honor: the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand.
On behalf of the team, a wreath was placed at the United Trinity statue at Old Trafford. Starting on Sunday, supporters and the general public can sign a book of condolences. Charlton, Best, and Law are memorialized in the bronze Trinity monument.
Prior to Manchester’s Champions League matchup against Copenhagen on Tuesday, discussions regarding the best way to honor Charlton’s life are still ongoing.
Paying respects to “England’s greatest player”
There was grief at hearing of Charlton’s passing among the football community.
The Football Association announced Sir Bobby Charlton’s demise through England’s X account and said, “It is with a heavy heart that we have learned of his passing.”
“Sir Bobby gained 106 caps for the Three Lions and scored 49 goals, playing a crucial role in our 1966 FIFA World Cup winning campaign.
“A real legend in our sport. Sir Bobby, we shall never forget you.
The influence of one of our most recognizable players, Sir Bobby Charlton, on our lone World Cup victory is obvious to everybody, according to England manager Gareth Southgate.
“Having the opportunity to meet him on multiple occasions helped me to comprehend the pleasure and passion he had in having served England, and it simply validated his reputation as a gentleman in the game.
“The world of football will unite in its sadness at losing an undisputed legend.”
David Beckham, a former captain of England and current star for Manchester United, was given the middle name Robert because his father much adored Charlton.
“Today is a sad day for football and everything that Sir Bobby represented, not just for Manchester United and England,” Beckham remarked. Our hearts are heavy today.
Gary Neville, Beckham’s former club and national teammate, described Charlton as “England’s greatest player and greatest ambassador” in a Sky Sports interview.
“He used to come into the changing room after a game, win, lose, or draw,” Neville said. When I played for the team, you may have taken it for granted that this legend would be in your changing room, congratulating you or expressing his sympathies.
“He was the golden thread through from Sir Matt Busby to Sir Alex Ferguson, two golden eras in Man Utd’s history and he was the constant through both of them.”
The governing body of European football, Uefa, added: “On behalf of the whole European football community, we are extremely saddened to learn of Sir Bobby Charlton’s demise, one of the real greats of the game. Peace be with you, Sir Bobby.
Dementia in football
Just over two months after the Munich air tragedy, in April 1958, Charlton made his international debut against Scotland at Hampden Park. Charlton was the sixth player of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning team to get a dementia diagnosis.
The illness also affected his brother Jack, Stiles, Martin Peters, who passed away in 2019, and Ray Wilson, who died in 2018.
While still in their 60s, Stiles, Peters, and Wilson received the diagnosis.
Lady Norma, Charlton’s wife, expressed the hope that other people may benefit from knowing about his condition.
Sir Bobby was the best player in the world – Beckenbauer
Charlton was given a unique role in the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley because of his prominence in Sir Alf Ramsey’s England squad.
He was one of the team’s major offensive players, scoring twice in a 2-1 semifinal triumph against Portugal and three times in the earlier stages, although he was ordered to man-mark West Germany maestro Franz Beckenbauer.
“I had waited my whole life to play in a World Cup final and I am asked to man-mark, which I had never done before,” Charlton remarked. “But when the whistle went, Franz Beckenbauer came straight to me – he had been given the same instruction.”
Ramsey was worried about Beckenbauer’s possible influence on the championship game, but West Germany manager Helmut Schon was worried about Charlton.
Charlton stated that neither player “had much impact on the final” since they “effectively cancelled each other out.”
However, the strategy allowed other England players, including hat-trick hero Hurst, to leave their own imprint on history.
And Beckenbauer witnessed firsthand the reason for his manager’s worry.
He stated: “In this game I realised how difficult it is to follow him and to mark him because in my opinion, in 1966 in the World Cup, he was the best player in the world.”