Finding Jack Charlton: A worthy tribute to the man who inspired a nation

Andy Watters

FINDING Jack Charlton, the poignant and touching documentary on the life and times of the former Republic of Ireland manager and England and Leeds United playing legend, is released for DVD and download on Monday.

Produced by the Noah Media Group and directed by Gabriel Clarke and Pete Thomas, the feature-length film is an inspiring, worthy tribute to a man who captivated the entire nation when he masterminded the Ireland's runs to the European Championships in 1988 and the World Cups of 1990 and 1994.

Stars of those sides, including Paul McGrath, David O'Leary, Niall Quinn and Andy Townsend, provide valuable insights into what made Charlton – who passed away in July aged 85 – tick as a single-minded manager.

Jack's contribution to revitalising stagnant Irish society and lifting the nation's horizons is recalled by a broad spectrum of contributors from former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to author Roddy Doyle to U2 drummer Larry Mullen and Brendan O'Carroll.

The producers were granted fly-on-the-wall access to the Charlton household during the final months of Jack's life by which time dementia had taken its toll on him. There are touching scenes of interaction with his grandchildren and Jack's wife Pat and his son John also feature prominently.

“They think a lot of you in Ireland, don't they?” Pat asks Jack at one stage.

“I've no idea,” he replies.

She adds later: “Now and again you see bits of him.”

The documentary also delves into Jack's often fraught relationship with younger brother and fellow World Cup winner Bobby.

Of course, central to ‘Big Jack's' enduring appeal was that despite his success in terms of sporting success and wealth, the coal miner's son from Ashington refused to lose touch with his working class roots in the north east of England. The film includes clips and soundbites from throughout Jack's life, a life that cannot be defined purely by his footballing achievements as player and manager.

In the final, touching scene, Jack looks on as a record spins on a turntable… It's the Newcastle United favourite ‘Blaydon Races'.

‘Ah me lads, ye shudda seen us gannin…'

The lyrics of the Geordie anthem strike a chord deep in his memory and suddenly there's a glimpse of the energy and passion that fuelled his existence. He stretches out his long arms, fists clenched, and joins in: ‘Gannin' alang the Scotswood Roaaaaad… to see the Blaydon Races...'

This unmissable feature-length documentary, sensitively and imaginatively put together with fascinating attention to detail, is available to purchase on DVD and Blu-Ray and can be streamed and downloaded via Amazon, Apple TV and the Sky Store from next Monday (November 23).

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