Sat. Apr 20th, 2024
alert-–-sir-bobby-charlton-dies-aged-86:-england-and-manchester-united-legend-passes-away-surrounded-by-family-after-long-battle-with-dementia-–-leaving-just-sir-geoff-hurst-alive-from-the-team-of-heroes-who-won-the-world-cup-in-1966Alert – Sir Bobby Charlton dies aged 86: England and Manchester United legend passes away surrounded by family after long battle with dementia – leaving just Sir Geoff Hurst alive from the team of heroes who won the World Cup in 1966

England and Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton has died aged 86 after a battle with dementia.

Sir Bobby, who made 758 appearances for his club and earned 106 caps for his beloved country, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family this morning. 

He is survived by his wife Lady Norma, their two daughters Suzanne and Andrea and grandchildren.

The gifted footballer, who was born in Ashington, Northumberland, on October 11, 1937, is widely viewed as one of the greats of the game and was part of England’s 1966 World Cup winning side. 

Following his death, Sir Geoff Hurst – who famously scored a hat-trick in England’s 4-2 victory over West Germany at Wembley – is now the only member of the team still alive. Former England right-back George Cohen also died, aged 83, in December.

A statement from the family of Sir Bobby said: ‘It is with great sadness that we share the news that Sir Bobby passed peacefully in the early hours of Saturday morning. He was surrounded by his family. 

‘His family would like to pass on their thanks to everyone who has contributed to his care and for the many people who have loved and supported him. We would request that the family’s privacy be respected at this time.’

Manchester United said they were mourning ‘one of the greatest and most beloved players in the history of our club.’ 

Sir Bobby had withdrawn from public life since he was diagnosed with dementia in November 2020, just four months after his elder brother Jack Charlton – another 1966 hero – died aged 85. He was one of five of England’s 1966 winners to suffer from the debilitating illness after his brother, Nobby Stiles, Ray Wilson and Martin Peters.

Sir Bobby Charlton (pictured holding a ball with United written on it during an interview with local press at a hotel in Hong Kong in 2005) will forever go down as one of the greatest players to play for Man United and England

Sir Bobby and his brother Jack – who died three years ago – embrace after an England vs West Germany game in 1985. The brothers had a bitter feud but reconciled in later life

Bobby Charlton (R) celebrates England’s 1966 World Cup victory. From left to right: Jack Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Gordon Banks (behind), Alan Ball, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore, Ray Wilson, George Cohen and Bobby Charlton

Charlton (in a Munich hospital) survived the Munich Air Disaster in 1958 when he was just 20 years old which tragically killed eight of United’s Busby Babes and 23 people in total

Sir Bobby Charlton is pictured representing his country against Wales in April 1970

Sir Bobby Charlton was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994, having previously been awarded the OBE and CBE

Bobby Charlton with his wife Norma and two daughters Suzanne and Andrea in their garden at home in the 1960s

Charlton went on to have an extraordinary career after surviving the Munich Air Disaster in 1958 – when he was 20 – which tragically killed eight of United’s Busby Babes and 23 people in total.

Full statements from Sir Bobby Charlton’s family and Manchester United

Sir Bobby’s heartbroken family said: ‘It is with great sadness that we share the news that Sir Bobby passed peacefully in the early hours of Saturday morning. He was surrounded by his family. 

‘His family would like to pass on their thanks to everyone who has contributed to his care and for the many people who have loved and supported him. 

‘We would request that the family’s privacy be respected at this time.’

Man United also paid tribute in a statement saying: ‘Manchester United are in mourning following the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the greatest and most beloved players in the history of our club.

‘Sir Bobby was a hero to millions, not just in Manchester, or the United Kingdom, but wherever football is played around the world.

‘He was admired as much for his sportsmanship and integrity as he was for his outstanding qualities as a footballer; Sir Bobby will always be remembered as a giant of the game.

‘A graduate of our youth Academy, Sir Bobby played 758 games and scored 249 goals during 17 years as a Manchester United player, winning the European Cup, three league titles and the FA Cup. For England, he won 106 caps and scored 49 goals for England, and won the 1966 World Cup.

‘Following his retirement, he went on to serve the club with distinction as a director for 39 years. His unparalleled record of achievement, character and service will be forever etched in the history of Manchester United and English football; and his legacy will live on through the life-changing work of the Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation.

‘The club’s heartfelt sympathies are with his wife Lady Norma, his daughters and grandchildren, and all who loved him.’

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In a glittering 17-year spell with United – where he played as if every game was for his fallen team-mates – he won three league titles, the FA Cup and captained the Red Devils when they became the first English club to win the European Cup.

Sir Bobby went on to score 249 goals for Man United – including two in the famous 1968 European Cup final win over Benfica.

Charlton is one of the ‘Holy Trinity’ along with George Best and Denis Law who are immortalised in a statue outside Old Trafford. In 2016, he also had the South Stand at the iconic stadium named after him which is opposite the Sir Alex Ferguson stand.

Sir Bobby also scored 49 goals for his country and won the Ballon d’Or in 1966 for his part in England’s World Cup triumph. His goal records for club and country both lasted decades until they were overtaken by Man United legend Wayne Rooney.

Following his retirement from football, Sir Bobby managed Preston North End from 1973 to  1975 and was later director at Wigan Athletic. Returning to United as a member of the board of directors in 1984, Sir Bobby was a constant presence at Old Trafford until recent years.

He and his wife Lady Norma – who were married for over 60 years – would take their seats week in, week out to watch the Red Devils march out and play at the Theatre of Dreams.

Sir Bobby – who’s bitter feud with his brother Jack was well documented before they made amends – was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994, having previously been awarded the OBE and CBE. 

Sir Alex Ferguson once praised Sir Bobby for how he ‘handled the greatness’. In a tribute on his 80th birthday, the former United manager said: ‘Success can change people, and it’s never changed Bobby Charlton. He is what he is: quiet, shy and I think it’s fantastic.

‘An example for anyone who enters football. He has never forgotten his roots. That girl Norma has been his rock, all his life. She’s an unbelievable person and that is a great partnership.

‘I think he was responsible for me getting the job at Manchester United. We used to go to games all the time — although I don’t think Bobby enjoyed my driving! — so it was a great introduction.’

Sir Geoff Hurst once described his former team-mate as ‘one of the most gifted players of this or any generation’.

He scored 249 goals for Man United – including two in the famous 1968 European Cup final win over Benfica. Pictured: Charlton with his manager Sir Matt Busby (second from right), Jimmy Murphy (left) and Jack Crompton after the final

Pictured: Sir Bobby Charlton attends the unveiling of a stand renamed in his honour in 2016

Charlton (R) is one of the ‘Holy Trinity’ along with George Best (L) and Denis Law (R) who are immortalised in a statue outside Old Trafford

Few have left a greater mark on football than mesmerising midfielder Bobby Charlton (pictured here for Man United in 1968)

England’s Martin Peters, George Cohen, Jack Charlton, Bobby Moore, Ray Wilson and Bobby Charlton (R) parade the Jules Rimet trophy around Wembley in 1966

 The gifted footballer won the Ballon d’Or in 1966 for his part in England’s World Cup triumph

Sir Alex Ferguson speaks to Sir Bobby Charlton during a training session at Carrington Training Ground in 2013

Sir Bbobby pictured with the late Pele during the Euro 96 tournament which was hosted in the UK

He added: ‘He was an idol of mine, to be in the same dressing room as him was a wonderful pleasure.

‘You travel all over the world, to parts where nobody can speak English, and there’s only thing they can say: ‘Bobby Charlton.”

In an interview with the Mail in 2018, Sir Bobby showed that he had never really shaken off his sense of guilt at going on to achieve so much while the dreams of so many friends and team-mates perished so tragically when a Man United flight crashed on the runway at Munich on February 6 1958.

British European Airways Flight 609 was making its third attempt to take off after stopping to refuel en route from Belgrade where United had beaten Red Star on aggregate to reach the semi-finals. It was the last time the Busby Babes played together. 

‘Why me?’ he always asked himself. ‘Why did I survive?’

The practical reason was that the lucky ones were occupying the rearward facing seats as Airspeed Ambassador Flight 609 ploughed into slush at the end of the runway at its third attempt to take off and crashed through a perimeter fence.

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Sir Bobby Charlton celebrates scoring a penalty kick at halftime during the United Relief charity match in aid of Sport Relief in 2010

Sir Bobby Charlton holds the Olympic Flame outside Old Trafford football stadium on the Torch Relay leg between Salford and Moss Side on Day 37 of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay on June 24, 2012

David Beckham and Sir Bobby Charlton, who both have over 100 caps for England, pose on the pitch at half time during a presentation of a commemorative cap and medal during the International Friendly match between England and Belgium at Wembley Stadium on June 2

Wayne Rooney is presented with a golden boot by Sir Bobby Charlton to mark his 250th Manchester United goal, which saw him break Charlton’s club record

Sir Bobby Charlton is presented with a signed shirt by Gareth Southgate manager of England as a pitch is named in his honour during an England training session at St Georges Park on October 2, 2017

Sir Bobby with another great of the game, the Portuguese legend Eusebio. They are pictured here in 2013

After losing his team-mates in the 1958 crash, Sir Bobby felt he could never play football again.

Sir Matt Busby, the legendary manager and another survivor, was struggling to dissuade him from premature retirement. 

The members of the team patched up by Busby had no more effect when the recovering Charlton visited them in the dressing room before matches during his recovery from the head wounds and trauma suffered when his seat with him strapped in it was thrown from the plane onto the ice.

Not until he went to visit the humble but loving family home in Ashington where he and his brother Jack grew into footballers did he find his reason to lace up the boots again.

Sir Bobby would go on to have a sensational career at the very top level, playing alongside his brother Jack for their country. 

Despite images of the brothers embracing after the 1966 final, their relationship, which, far from being warm, was actually marked by distance and discord for many years.

‘To be honest, me and our kid were never the best of friends,’ Jack once said. For his part, Bobby complained that his brother’s attitude was sometimes ‘unacceptable’, writing that Jack could be ‘too impetuous, too eager to speak and to lash out’.

The taller brother was the rebellious maverick, whereas Bobby was the conformist. ‘Everything I liked in life he didn’t have anything to do with, and everything he likes in life I don’t want to know about,’ said Jack in 1997.

England brothers Jack and Bobby Charlton sink to their knees as they celebrate victory at the final whistle of the World Cup final

Their relationship seemed irreparably broken but they were very publicly reconciled a year later when Bobby was presented with a BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award

But at the heart of this fraternal friction was the fact that their mother Cissie, a matriarchal figure who came from a North-Eastern footballing family called the Milburns, had a strong antipathy towards Bobby’s wife Norma — a feeling that was reciprocated.

‘There was no meeting point, no common ground with my mother. It was very painful,’ wrote Bobby. Inevitably, he took the side of his wife in the dispute as the chasm between the two women widened, while Jack took Cissie’s side.

At times, especially in the 1990s, there was a real bitterness between the brothers, which meant they were not even on speaking terms.

Sir Bobby explained that he had been angered by passages in Jack’s autobiography, published in 1996, in which Jack not only attacked Bobby for failing to visit their mother Cissie in her final years, but described Norma as stand-offish and difficult. 

Sir Bobby said years later that these comments about his wife Norma were ‘disgraceful’ and ‘nonsense’. Writing in a book in 2007, he confessed he and his brother had ‘never been further apart than we are now’, adding: ‘I just don’t want to know him.’

Left to right – Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, George Best, Sir Matt Busby, Brian Kidd, Pat Crerand and David Sadler at Manchester United’s Cliff training ground in January 1971

Legends Sir Bobby Charlton and Denis Law meet ahead of the Premier League match between Manchester United and Watford at Old Trafford on May 13, 2018

Roger Hunt, Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Geoff Hurst attend day six of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships at Wimbledon on July 02, 2016. Hurst is now the only surviving member of the 1966 World Cup side

Their relationship seemed irreparably broken but they were very publicly reconciled a year later when Bobby was presented with a BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award. Jack agreed to present the trophy and told his sibling: ‘Bobby Charlton is the greatest player I’ve ever seen. And he’s my brother.’ 

The pair embraced – just as they had on the turf at Wembley 42 years earlier. 

In the year’s before Jack’s death family members also revealed they often spoke over the phone if someone was sick.  

News of Sir Bobby’s dementia diagnosis three years ago sparked upset but also more frustration as he became yet another of England’s heroes to suffer from the illness.

But, even without the shadow of this family rift, the fact is the two men were never close. The row between Cissie and Norma only became so incendiary because Jack and Bobby were profoundly different, with little fraternal empathy. 

In a column for The Sun this week, West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady said that football has no choice but to change. 

‘There are injuries and then there are injuries without healing. The worst by far is dementia,’ she said.

Brady welcomed measures which are being introduced to limit the injuries caused by repeatedly heading a ball.

Sir Bobby’s death comes less than a year after his former team-mate George Cohen died. 

Cohen was vice-captain of the first and only England squad that became world champions, having made his international debut in 1962 and become a mainstay in Alf Ramsey’s side four years later. 

Captain Bobby Moore, Gordon Banks, Jack Charlton, Ray Wilson, Nobby Stiles, Alan Ball, Martin Peters and Roger Hunt have all also tragically died.

Sir Bobby’s former club Man United are playing Sheffield United at Bramall Lane later tonight. 

United also paid tribute in a statement saying: ‘Manchester United are in mourning following the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the greatest and most beloved players in the history of our club.

‘Sir Bobby was a hero to millions, not just in Manchester, or the United Kingdom, but wherever football is played around the world.

‘He was admired as much for his sportsmanship and integrity as he was for his outstanding qualities as a footballer; Sir Bobby will always be remembered as a giant of the game.

‘A graduate of our youth Academy, Sir Bobby played 758 games and scored 249 goals during 17 years as a Manchester United player, winning the European Cup, three league titles and the FA Cup. For England, he won 106 caps and scored 49 goals for England, and won the 1966 World Cup.

‘Following his retirement, he went on to serve the club with distinction as a director for 39 years. His unparalleled record of achievement, character and service will be forever etched in the history of Manchester United and English football; and his legacy will live on through the life-changing work of the Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation.

‘The club’s heartfelt sympathies are with his wife Lady Norma, his daughters and grandchildren, and all who loved him.’