The stories are weird, wonderful and very funny!

Book review - Dean Goodison

Jack Charlton - The Authorised Biography
Jack Charlton - The Authorised Biography

Sometimes it's the look of a person. Maybe they look shady, unkempt or disinterested, maybe it's lovable, cuddly or engaging, whatever aura a person gives off, as humans our brains file away that visual and we readily, but unwittingly, attach a made up personality to random strangers.

Jack Charlton had a look, that look of devilment, the lovable rogue. Without it could he have been taken to the bosom of the Irish public? Surely not to the extent that he became an iconic figure for a nation that was in desperate need of a hero, even if being an 'English' hero would have meant most mere mortals need not apply.

But a hero, a national treasure, and an honorary Irishman he became. That same face, that homely grin, bounces off the cover of the latest release bearing his name. 'Jack Charlton, The Authorised Biography' might look like a release from the '90s with its chunky font and throwback colouring, but it's in fact a new gem.

The book is written by Colin Young, a sports journalist born in Glasgow but who predominantly worked in the North East of England. He also covered the Republic of Ireland for the Irish Daily Mail which makes him an ideal candidate to review the career of a World Cup winner.

Young does a fine job with his layout. He starts with the early days of Charlton's life, easing into the career of a footballer and eventually his advancement at Leeds, all the way into a 1966 Jules Rimet Trophy winner.

Considering the fact that Charlton was born in the 1930s, the author does a fine job of squeezing the early stories out of those still alive and lucid enough to remember them. It gives the reader a dip into his early life without overstaying its welcome.

The remainder of the first half of the publication focuses on Charlton's early managerial career, starting with Middlesbrough before moving on to Sheffield Wednesday and then to Newcastle.

Part two of the book, which is almost exactly half of the 220 pages, is about his ten years with Ireland. Each major tournament is given a chapter and relived through the words of Charlton, his players and those around the set-up.

The content is really strong. Young relies on testimony collected by himself, as well as segments of players autobiographies, to tell the story of Jack Charlton, the man and the manager.

The stories are weird, wonderful and often laugh out loud funny. There's an honesty to the book, far from being swept under the carpet, Charlton's flaws are celebrated, simply because they were part of what made him the hero he was to so many.

Who want's to hop down to the Book Centre on the Main Street and pick this up for a loved one this Christmas? Any sports fan that dreamed their way through the summer of 1990, that's for sure. Anyone that felt that almost foreign feeling of national pride rushing through them as Ireland beat England in '88, Romania two years later or the Italians in USA '94.

But this is more than that. There's a whole generation who weren't around for those halcyon days. This book can take them back to before they were being, before football became something slicker. Before the vast majority of the population ever discussed tactics.

This biography shows a younger generation of what sport, and in particularly soccer, was like in a simpler time. This is a great addition to the Christmas list for any teenager who loves their sports, it wasn't always energy drinks and protein shakes, it wasn't always perfect but it was entertaining.

Visit The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.

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