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Jack & Bobby - A story of brothers in conflict

Leo McKinstry - CollinsWillow 18.99 - ISBN 0-00-711876-7

English Victorian author Henry Sambrooke Leigh wrote in his book The Twins, "In form and feature, face and limb,/ I grew so like my brother/ That folks got taking me for him,/ And each for one another." The same could not be said of the Charlton brothers for not only were there distinctly unlike in appearance, they turned out to be quite different in outlook and personality as well.

Both products of the north east coal-mining town of Ashington, they both made their way into professional football, they both became valued England internationals, winning the 1966 World Cup, and they both became football club managers. In addition both have had many business interests that have earned them millionaire status. But although these similarities seem perhaps many, they have achieved their status in quite diverse ways.

Bobby as a youngster was always the family favourite and was determined to become a footballer from the beginning but Jack had no such early ambitions and indeed the standard of his play as a junior did not lead anyone to remotely suspect that he would make the grade. He even went down the pit for a very short time before deciding that it was not for him and, in his way that became very familiar in later life, told the managers so in no uncertain terms!

Surprisingly it was Jack who earned a professional contract first and he later, perhaps slightly misleadingly, said, "Neither of us had ever considered anything but playing the game for a living." He did not join Leeds United on their first approach but later had second thoughts and, after a trial, he signed for the Yorkshire club. Mother Cissie Charlton, the power behind the throne, commented on the signing, "I was amazed because although Jack had enjoyed his football, he just wasn't the same calibre as Bobby."

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Almost twelve months later and Bobby too had become a professional footballer as he joined Manchester United. And while Jack sweated away in the Second Division, Bobby became one of the famous Busby Babes and assisted Manchester United in their Youth Cup triumphs. Then came the disastrous Munich accident after which many felt that Bobby changed and was a little more reflective and introspective.

Both players progressed and by 1966 they were both in the World Cup squad and shared mixed emotions on the field after the epic victory. They continued in the side, bobby almost regularly, Jack more intermittently until the 1970 World Cup when they both played their final international game.

Retirement came for both of them on 29 April 1973, Bobby after 755 games and two appearances as substitute and Jack after 773 games. Managerial careers followed but in this field Jack was more successful than Bobby who even made a brief return for Preston North End when his side were not doing too well. Bobby quickly realised that the manager's role was not for him but Jack went from strength to strength culminating his highly successful role as manager of the Irish Republic side.

Jack also continued his outside interests, fishing and shooting most particularly, while Bobby became the football ambassador and businessman. Both made huge successes of their life and their names are still very much to the fore when football is spoken about.

Leo McKinstry, in his usual fine style, gives a balanced view of both Jack and Bobby and a superb statistical section backs up the text. As for the question as to whether they are "brothers in arms" or "brothers in conflict", readers will have to enjoy the enthralling 492 pages to make up their own minds!

Gerry Wolstenholme

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