Posted by George Morrison

Jack Charlton                         Word on the Week                          18th July 2020.

The death of Jack Charlton at the end of last week brought back a flood of sporting memories from the glory days of Irish soccer.   Never was an Englishman so loved by an Irish sporting population which had grown up to dislike all things English.   It was a wonderful paradox!

Jack came from ‘Geordie’ stock.   He and his brother Bobby (later to play for England) were taught the elements of ball control in the lane behind their house by their Mother!   His father worked in the coal mine but showed no interest in soccer.   He had Uncles who played for well-known clubs and to some extent football was in his DNA.

Consistency marked out his career.   Most of his life as a player was spent with Leeds United.   By the time he retired he had played 773 games with them.   It was his proud boast that he was never once substituted!    

We lived in Leeds during the heady days of 1968 -71 and saw him play at their grounds at Elland Road.    His size 6 feet 3 inches made him an unmistakable figure on the pitch.   Verna Wright, Professor of Rheumatology at Leeds University was permitted to inject the team’s knees with a serum as part of its field trials.   It was reckoned jovially that the players could out-run their opponents as a result!

Jack moved into management and after successfully improving the position of a couple of clubs was invited to become manager of the Irish National team.    This was 1986.   It was to be the start of a 10-year period which saw the Irish team achieve great things.   From the start Jack put his stamp on the way things were done.   On the field his catch-phrase “put ‘em under pressure” paid dividends.   It led the team into two World Cup tournaments reaching the quarter finals in the second. 

In those days I was working in the Irish Life building and can vividly recall when, after lunch, someone ‘accidently’ switched on the loudspeaker and the theme song “Olay; olay, olay, olay – olay, olay” galvanised the many supporters in the hall!    There is no doubt that sport, played well on the international stage, has the power to lift the moral of a nation.

But Jesus didn’t die simply to lift the moral of any Nation.   His death was the gateway for many to enter the Kingdom of God (Acts 14 verses 21 – 22).   Isaiah writing regarding the Israel of God, the redeemed, spoke of “everlasting joy shall be upon their heads” (Chapter 35 verses 8 – 10).

While we fondly remember Jack and the good times we will eventually forget.  The joy of salvation lasts forever.   Jesus said, Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (St John Chapter 5 verse 24).