Sir Bobby Charlton, the greatest English footballer of all time, left us last Saturday (10/21/2023) at the age of 86.
Join us as we celebrate the brilliant career of this football legend, who will forever be in the hearts of English fans, Manchester United supporters, and all football enthusiasts.
Bobby Charlton’s Career
Robert Bobby Charlton was born in Ashington, Northumberland, England, on October 11, 1937.
Despite being born in a small town, which now has approximately 27,000 inhabitants, Bobby Charlton knew the world was his oyster.
In 1953, he joined one of the biggest clubs in the world, Manchester United. Today, we can say that the Red Devils reached the heights they did, in large part thanks to Bobby, who spent a whopping 18 years at the club.
He played for the club’s youth teams until 1956. He made his professional debut at the age of 18 years, 11 months, and 25 days, on October 6 of that year, against Charlton Athletic. The match ended 4-2 in favor of Manchester United.
In his very first game, Sir Bobby Charlton showed he was something special. He didn’t feel the pressure and scored two goals in five minutes.
Image: Press Association
The coach who gave the young lad his first opportunity was the legendary Sir Alexander Matthew Busby, a Champions League winner and a five-time English League (now Premier League) champion. Together, the two Sirs would go on to win many titles.
In 1957, just a year after starting his professional career, the young Robert already tasted his first championship, becoming English Champion.
However, not everything was smooth sailing. Quite the opposite.
In February 1958, Sir Bobby Charlton faced death head-on. At just 21 years of age, he was already one of England’s best players, leading Manchester United in various competitions.
In that month, the English team had secured a spot in the Champions League semi-finals after drawing 3-3 against the formidable Red Star team in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (Serbia).
To return to England, the team’s plane made a stop in Munich.
The problem was that, according to reports from those present, there were three attempts to take off before the plane could actually get in the air due to engine failures.
The warnings were not enough to cancel the flight. As a result, the club’s chartered aircraft glided in the air for a few moments before crashing into an abandoned house.
The incident resulted in the death of eight Manchester United players and clearly shook the entire world of football, being considered one of the greatest tragedies in the sport.
Image: Getty Images
Sir Bobby Charlton was one of the survivors. Despite being injured in the accident, he still managed to participate in his first World Cup in 1958, in Sweden.
Charlton and Busby, the coach who had given him his start, became symbols of the Manchester United’s reconstruction, and year after year, the Red Devils became a powerful team, arguably one of the strongest in football.
In 1962, Denis Law arrived at Manchester. In the following year, in 1963, the eternal star George Best also landed in the industrial city. Together, they formed one of the greatest attacking trios and won numerous titles.
In a span of 10 years, they clinched two English League titles (1965 and 1967), an FA Cup (1963), two English Super Cups (1966 and 1968), and the coveted Champions League (1967/68).
Sir Bobby Charlton remained at Manchester United until 1973 when he transferred to Preston. With the Red Devils, he played 758 games, becoming the second player with the most appearances for the club, surpassed only in 2008 by Ryan Giggs.
He scored 249 goals, won numerous titles, and undoubtedly left his mark on this immense English club.
However, his time at Preston didn’t align with his career up to that point. Playing in the second division of the English League, the club was relegated to the third division.
As a result, he played for various semi-professional and amateur clubs in Australia until finally bringing his playing career to a close in 1979.
Image: The Sunday Times UK
England National Team
Sir Bobby Charlton didn’t earn this title by chance. He was a four-time World Cup participant, but above all, he was the main reason for England’s only World Cup title.
His debut for the national team was in a friendly before the 1958 World Cup, in England’s 4-0 victory over Scotland. He truly had a light shining on him when it came to debuts, as he scored one of the goals in that match.
In the 1958 World Cup, he didn’t play any matches, largely due to the early elimination of the English, who were defeated by the Soviet Union in the first knockout round.
In 1962, he played in all matches, but once again, England was eliminated in the same round as in the previous World Cup. This time, it was the Brazilians who triumphed, securing their second of five titles.
Finally, 1966 arrived. The stage was set. England hosted the World Cup and had their best player in top form.
The campaign began with a 0-0 draw against Uruguay, which raised doubts about the team’s ability to become champions.
The truth is that the England national team adapted well to the flaws shown in the opening match and went on to win all of their games.
They defeated Mexico and France, both 2-0, in the group stage. In the quarterfinals, they beat Argentina 1-0. In the semifinal, their opponent was Portugal, who had just eliminated the reigning two-time champions, Brazil.
The Portuguese had Eusébio, who had been having a spectacular tournament. However, Bobby Charlton was on fire and scored both goals in the 2-1 victory.
The final, against Germany, was filled with controversy. The match ended 2-2 in regulation, leading to extra time.
Then, Hurst took a powerful shot. The ball hit the crossbar and bounced just before the goal line, with clear evidence that the goal had not been scored. Despite this, the match referee pointed to the center of the field and awarded the goal to the home team.
Hurst scored once more, in the dying seconds of the game, to seal England’s first and only World Cup victory.
Bobby Charlton’s performance that year was so impressive that he was named the best European player, winning the coveted Ballon d’Or.
He also played in the 1970 World Cup, reaching the quarterfinals, but it was West Germany who advanced.
After the 1970 World Cup, he retired from the English national team. Along the way, he played 106 matches and scored 49 goals, in addition to winning the greatest prize in football.
The Title of Sir, Honors, and Disrespect to the Legend
The title of Sir is a significant honor in the British community.
Thanks to his impressive achievements with the English national team and Manchester United, he became eligible to receive it. Queen Elizabeth II granted him the title in 1974.
Manchester United and various other clubs in England offered their condolences on the passing of the legend. The Red Devils are in mourning.
The sad part of the story lies with the Manchester City fans.
During a Premier League match that took place on the Saturday of Sir Bobby Charlton’s passing, a group of fans chanted mocking songs about the former player’s death.
In a commendable move, Manchester City identified two particularly vocal fans and banned them from the Etihad Stadium.
The disrespectful words of these fans do not change the fact that Sir Bobby Charlton will forever be remembered as one of the greatest footballers in history. And as Englishmen, they should be grateful every day for the World Cup he brought to their country.
Image: X Uefa
Written by Vitor F. L. Miller.