FAI History: The Charlton Years

FAI History: The Charlton Years

The appointment of former English international, Jack Charlton, took many by surprise ...
5th Jun 2009


CHAPTER 25 - The Appointment of Jack Charlton

The Football Association of Ireland was deeply involved in a battle for survival in 1985 after elimination from the World Cup for the Association was close to insolvency when Eoin Hand resigned as manager of the National team.

The Association's debts were estimated to be as high as £30,000 which was a considerable sum at the time for an organisation that was led largely by officers who gave of their time and energies in a voluntary capacity.

Several years of poor results on the playing pitch had seen attendances at international matches slip disastrously and with the FAI almost exclusively dependant upon income from gate receipts to finance their substantial body of work, the financial picture was bleak.

The final match in Dublin in the qualifying tournament of the 1986 World Cup against an attractive team from Denmark yielded total gate receipts of only £128,000.

The profit accruing from such a modest income was tiny and so parlous was the Association's position that the officers were forced to approach the FAI Junior Council for a loan to pay the salaries of four full-time employees.

It was time for desperate measures and the FAI moved to improve their financial position by launching an investment programme round a national lottery in which 144 cars would be the main prizes. Noel Heavey of Athlone Town was the man credited with driving the scheme.

The Association had three main aspirations: the appointment of a full-time manager of the national team, the establishment of a commercial division within the organisation to dilute the dependence upon gate receipts and the acquisition of a national coaching and training centre.

Opel Ireland were approached to supply the cars and, by a happy coincidence, the company was seeking a major sponsorship opportunity at that time.

The managing director of Opel Ireland, Arnold O'Byrne, concluded a contract that meant the deal to supply the cars for the lottery was tied up with a four-years sponsorship contract worth £400,000 to the Association. Unfortunately the lottery foundered but the sponsorship deal proved a huge success for all concerned.

The financial gloom that had shrouded the affairs of the Association was further lifted when a textile contract, valued at £125,000 was signed with Adidas and the FAI was afforded the opportunity of making two key appointments on the back of their healthier financial state.

Dr. Tony O'Neill, the main force behind the blossoming football club at UCD, was appointed Assistant General Secretary and Donie Butler was installed as head of the newly established commercial division.

Now it was time to seek a new manager and in January 1986 the President of the FAI, Mr. Des Casey, and Dr. O'Neill travelled to England to interview prospective candidates. Initially their brief was to find a manager who would act in a part-time capacity.

Some famous former players were on the FAI list of possible managers - Jack Charlton, John Giles, Paddy Crerand, Noel Cantwell, Theo Foley, Billy McNeill and the former Arsenal full-back, Terry Neill, who had managed the Northern Ireland international team.

Nottingham Forest responded in a negative vein when an approach was made with a view to interviewing their manager, Brian Clough, while other applications were received from other former Ireland internationals like Mark Lawrenson, Liam Tuohy, Jimmy Conway, Jim McLaughlin and Paddy Mulligan.

A short list of three was eventually decided upon and the FAI resolved to offer the position to one of these - Charlton, McNeill and Tuohy. The list was quickly cut down to two as McNeill informed the FAI that his club, Manchester City, were not prepared to release him.

The Executive Committee of the FAI met on February 7, ostensibly, to select one from two but at the last moment there was a surprise development. Des Casey informed the meeting that a phone call had been received from John Giles in which he stated he wanted to rescind an earlier decision not to allow his name go forward and he was now pitching for the appointment.

It was agreed, after some debate, that his name should now be added to the ballot paper and this immediately led to yet another surprise revelation.

Mr. Casey announced that he had been in discussions with Bob Paisley, manager of Liverpool, and was satisfied the club would not stand in his way if he was offered the position as manager of Ireland. This was the first intimation that some of the delegates received that Paisley was available.

There were grounds for believing that not all of the delegates had been taken by surprise, however, and when a first ballot was called and the votes counted Paisley topped the poll with nine votes while Charlton, Giles and Tuohy each had three supporters.

The delegates voting for Giles and Tuohy then transferred their support to Charlton for the second ballot and with one of Paisley's original backers also switching Jack Charlton was declared elected by a 10-8 majority. He was the first non-national to hold the post.

The announcement took the public by surprise for they were not aware of the Committee's interest in an ‘outside' appointment. And Charlton's management career which had taken him to Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United had not been blessed with too much success.

Charlton was a ‘late-bloomer' as a footballer for he was not capped by England until Alf Ramsey called him up for a game against Scotland in 1965, just weeks before his 30th birthday. His younger brother, Bobby Charlton, was, by then, an established international and one of the most famous players in the game.

Jack spent his entire playing career with Leeds United and as a relatively young man he had the foresight to attend the English FA's coaching seminars at Lilleshall. He was coaching at schools' level when his commitments to Leeds allowed when he received Ramsey's call to arms.

Charlton was a big, bold and forthright defender who proved to be the perfect foil for the more cerebral Bobby Moore at the heart of England's defence. His contribution to England's World Cup win of 1966 was immense but he did not enjoy the same success when, after a record 629 appearances for Leeds United, he turned to management.

His third posting, as manager of Newcastle United, looked to be the perfect job for him for his uncle was Jackie Milburn, a record goal-scorer with Newcastle and one of their greatest ever players. The family associations with the club were strong and enduring.

Charlton did not last long, however, at St. James' Park. The day-to-day chores of management did not sit comfortably with him and when supporters barracked him after an undistinguished team performance in a pre-season friendly match, he resigned without warning.

Charlton subsequently turned down an invitation to manage Oxford United and when the FAI arrived to interview him they found him unattached and excited at the prospect of filling a job that would not place outrageous demands on his time.

He knew nothing about Irish football or the make-up of the international structure at the FAI. The opportunity of working with a group of top professionals for six or seven matches in a year afforded him the satisfaction of exercising his coaching/management training at the highest level and gave him time to pursue his leisure-time interests, most notably his angling.

Charlton was already aware of how attractive to an angler were the rivers and lakes of Ireland and the prospect of visiting on a more regular basis was inevitably attractive to him. Furthermore he was galvanised by the positive response his appearance evoked amongst the ordinary people of Ireland.

Charlton told of one of his earliest experiences after his appointment was made public. He was walking through Dublin's main thoroughfare, O'Connell Street, when a stranger stood in front of him and said: "Best of luck in the new job, Jack."

Charlton recalled the incident thus: "In that moment I knew I would be accepted (by the Irish). I liked people who called me Jack and there was a sincerity about the man that told me all I needed to know."

Thus a marriage made in heaven was consummated and the FAI shared with the earnest and out-spoken Jack Charlton a rollercoaster ride that took them over peaks that before had seemed beyond reach, hidden in the clouds.

 CHAPTER 26The European Championship Qualifiers  1988

CHAPTER 27 - UEFA Championship 1988 - The finals

CHAPTER 28 - Italia 90 Qualifiers

CHAPTER 29 - World Cup 1990 final tournament

CHAPTER 30 - UEFA Champinship of 1992

CHAPTER 31 - World Cup 1994 Qualifying tournament

CHAPTER 32 - World Cup 1994 Final Tournament

CHAPTER 33 - Jack Charlton contemplates his future

CHAPTER 34 - Turmoil after Charlton's departure