Finding Jack Charlton

Finding Jack Charlton, Doccumentary, released on 6th Decemvber 2020

DirectorsGabriel ClarkePete Thomas

Music composed byJames Copperthwaite

Executive producerAndy Townsend

ProducersJohn McKennaTorquil Jones

I wouldn’t advise you to watch this doccumentary I would suggest you watch it twice or more.

Although it explores Jack Charlton’s life and a final battle with alzheimer’s (Like his brother and many other footballers and sports peolple) it concentrates mainly on his phenominal decade long career as Manager of The Republic of Ireland’s national football team.

Having had a fantastic playing career with Leeds and England, winning the World Cup in 1966, he went on into football management initially with Middlesborough and in 1985 was invited to be the Irish national Manager. His initial lack of response gave no indication of the succees in two World Cups and a EUropean Championship that would follow. The matches are all doccumented with some great clips but it is the special relationship that Jack developed with the Irish people that shines through. It is so sad that in his later years he could not remember this.

Past Presidents and Taoiseach’s praise him for his raising the moral and spirit of the country but it falls to clips of Larry Mullen, drummer with U2 to put in context of how Jack Charlton’s success with the team amazinly increased the belief of the peolple of Ireland that they were as a country able to stand up to and with any other country on earth. This new belief was at a time of great troubles and decline and paved the way for the new self confident Ireland of today.

Jack Charlton chose and worked with a band of British Isles born footballers with Irish ancestors who also caught the mood and took their chance to prove themselves. Niall Quinn and Parick Bonner give great background stories, David O’Leary explains why he was overlooked but was there to slot home a World Cup second round penalty shoot out deciding goal. Andy Townsend (Executive Producer of the doccumentary) reads out some of the notes that Jack Charlton kept throughout his career that are cleverly shown on a 3D board throughout the 97 minutes.

But it is the story and relationship with Paul McGrath that gives me the tingling moments. Paul explains what it was to be different in Ireland and how you had to fight to overcome the predjudice in a very closed society which was felt by many and led to some of the emigration. Having watched Paul in his Aston Villa career I already admired a man who was a top footballer despite his demons, no wander he is idolised wherever he played.

The Charlton family raidiate love for Jack, his wife and son and the rest of the family show that in their support and care for him.

On a personal note I did not realise that I watched the end of his Republic of Ireland career on 13th December 1995 when I was able to get two tickets for the European Championship play off between the Republic of Ireland and The Netherlands at Anfield for my son and I. The Netherlands won two nil in what I remember as a one sided game. Having found a parking space near the ground we were intrigued to watch a black Mercedes pull up opposite us and four men get out, go round to the boot, change out of their very good clothes into orange t shirts, boiler suits with orange hard hats and march off to the ground. I was also aske inside the gound by a Dutchman ‘what is this Bovril’, how do you exlpain! Jack Charlton resigned the next day.

This is a great doccumentary which transformed my undestanding of a great man, deffinately in the same class as Bobby Robson. Jack’s wife asks why didn’t he become a ‘Sir’ and I have to say, a complete mystery.

Football curios unlocked and hopefully not forgotten.

Brent council have arranged for some of the tiled murals facing the pedestrian subway between Wembley Park Stadium and Olympic Way at Bobby Moore Bridge to be on view from 10th to 28th March.

They have been hidden behind some advertising hoardings and depict sporting events that were held during the Second World War including Ice Hockey and American Football. They were unveiled in 1993 in honour of Bobby Moore who as captain of England’s victorious football team lifted the World Cup in 1966. They were covered up in 2013 and as recently as 2019 a company was awarded permission to cover them with advertising for ten years.

Some councillors and local historians are campaigning for them to be on view during the European Championships in June and July this year and beyond. It seems pointless to have the tiles on view when we are in lockdown and we are told not to travel! A few lucky locals will be able to see them but not the wider public.

I am old enough to recollect seeing some buildings/remains of what I think were left from the British Empire Exhibition 1924 when visiting the old Wembley 60 years ago. I think one item was some stone lions but these all seem to have gone now but a few iconic pieces would have been good to keep.

GINGA – The Soul of Brazilian Football

GINGA – The Soul of Brazilian Football

DVD format released by Mr Bongo Essential World Football, 2014

Produced by Fernando Meirelles 

Directed by Marcelo Machado, Hank Levine and Tocha Alves.

Yes a DVD!, I have been saving them for some bad weather days when there would be no football and they have come in useful in these depressing times. As like so many of my book reviews they are charity Shop finds for anywhere up to £1, this one 20p.

This is a documentary about why Brazilian Football is regarded as one of the best and most fluent in the world. Seven young footballers from all over the country, from diverse social, gender, disability and ethnic back grounds are followed as they try to use their amazing skills to break into football at the highest level. Some express a view about Ginga that it is the, rhythm, music and movement that gives them an indefinable quality to be able to take technique with the ball and movement of their body to a level that is difficult for others to contend with. One person even proposes that it is now within the Brazilian DNA.

Certainly the ball control skill shown is breath-taking not least by the two females that take part.

But the undoubted ball skills are not enough as a coach in Sao Paolo says that technique is 30% but strength is 70%.

All of those who are followed seem desperate and driven to succeed and are fully supported by their families. More than once it’s said that they want to be successful to provide for their family which may be as big a factor as Ginga. Games are played on the beach, in the street, on waste land or in homes but most striking is ‘Court Football’. Court football is played inside in Brazil and there are leagues for all ages and genders everywhere. Leagues start at an early age up to senior level where you can earn a living. Because of the smaller size of pitch, ball control and quick decision making are needed to shine. I would suggest that these two factors go hand in hand with Ginga to fashion the outstanding players and teams that have thrilled the world.

The DVD is in Portuguese with sub titles, changes shot very quickly and has a continual music background that does make it hard to follow. No substitute for a real game but worthwhile viewing.

BOBBY ROBSON-more than a Manager

Bobby Robson; More than a Manager

Presented by NoahX, a Noah Media Group Production.

Written by Gabriel Clarke, Produced by Torquil Jones, John McKenna, Victoria Harrell

Released 4th June 2018

This British film documentary is a sympathetical commentary on a man Gary Lineka says was “the best English Manager of all time” and who would argue against that. It is superbly put together and captures your attention.

Although the film starts with the diagnosis and subsequent surgery for cancer in 1995 and Bobby Robson’s time as Manager of Barcelona it flashes back and forwards to highlight his playing, managerial and fund raising career.

Born in County Durham in 1933 he remained faithful to his roots and stayed anchored to the area until his death in in 2009.

It is a poignant but heart warming film for such dire times. Bobby Robsons humanity, drive, passion, integrity, dignity, honesty and love of football shine through and is honoured by the people he was close to.

Alan Shearer, “He saved my career.”

Pep Guardiolo, “After working with Bobby I wanted to be a manager”. He also wrote to Bobby offering to come and help him at Newcastle. “Nicest person he met in his life.”

Jose Mourinho (who worked as his assistant at Barcelona) talking of Bobby. “a man only dies when the last man who knows him dies.”

Ronaldo said, “I had a lot more to learn from him”, when Barca sold me to Inter Milan. Ronaldo loved Bobby because he trusted him to just go and play and bought him when young, risking his own career.

Terry Butcher, ” I’d go through hell and high water for him.”

Paul Gascoigne and Bobby Robson had a special relationship and it was Bobby who said of Gascoigne that he was “Daft as a Brush”. Gascoigne said of Bobby he was ” On a par with Mohamed Ali in football terms.”

Alex Ferguson, “Helped me when I was a young coach”.

Such comments by football people of the highest calibre say it all.

When you see his achievements, played for England, Managed Ipswich to European glory, England to a world Cup semi final, PSV to cup and league high spots, managed two teams in Potugal, Barcelona to a trebble and revitslised Newcastle you realise he was special.

Watch this film for motivation but be prepared to have a pack of tissues at hand and remember he always said, “Believe in yourself.”

Football Life Goes On

The death of Jack Charlton has been marked across the world but with greater poignancy in his home town of Ashington, his one club Leeds and in Ireland where his managerial and personal skills galvanised a team and country to World Cup achievements never seen before and likely not ever again.

This T shirt with Jack Charlton 5 on the reverse is a memorial to the great but humble man who was one of the people, an accolade not available to many. It has been produced by and is available from

The words taken direct from their website. “Yesterday a Leeds, England and Republic of Ireland Great was laid to rest. A one club man Jack was also a miner, a soldier and anti-fascist. At Leeds he won the League championship, 2nd division championship, Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (twice), FA cup and League Cup, all illustrated. With England he won the Home International Championship and most famously of all he lifted the World Cup, also featured. After Leeds he managed Middlesbrough to the 2nd Division Championship and Anglo-Scottish Cup followed by taking the Republic of Ireland to their first European Championship, beating England there, and two World Cups. The lot, chronicled on our memorial shirt.”

Thank You

I would not only like to say thank you to Jack for all of the great memories but also to everyone who reads this blog. We are just over half way through the year but have already surpassed last years stats which have risen considerably since I started in 2017. This despite no football to attend although some of the views may have been due to lockdowns in different parts of the world and a need to get a football fix of some sort.

My son suggests that I should rename the blog ‘taponthegate’ because when there is a restart payment will likely be by some mode of contactless. It looks like the Non League game could be back some time in September and I can’t wait.

Black Footballers Matter

On a shopping trip I found myself near Edlington Cemetery. The significance of this is that Arthur Wharton the first ever black professional footballer is buried there.

I’d read about his amazing goalkeeping career and how he ended up a publican and for his last 15 years down the pit mostly at the almost adjacent Yorkshire Main Colliery. He died pennyless and only in 2014 after a campaign by his Grand Daughter and Football Unites, Racism Divides, a Sheffield-based community scheme’ was a fitting memorial headstone erected at his grave.

Naively I had read online that he had a black headstone and with only seeing graves in ancient cemeteries in recent years, being met with 70% black headstonees completely confused and made me realise that I had a big hunt in front of me.

Luckily a man was moving some mowers who turned out to be the guardian of the cemetery. He was really helpful and took us to the grave and talked about the campaign to honour Arthur and the search for his unmarked grave which was only revealed when someone came in to enquire about a burial in the 1930’s and there at the top of the page for the date they were looking for was Arthur Wharton’s name which had eluded them for some time.

Arthur played for Darlington, Preston North End, Rotherham Town, Sheffield United, Stalybridge Rovers and Ashton North End between 1885 and 1901. He is also remembered for running 100yds in 10 seconds to equal the ameteur world record in 1886 at the AAA’s championship. The man in the cemetery said that local legend says that he achieved this on an Ash Track at the nearby Miners Welfare in Pit Boots! Arthur Wharton was a complete all round athlete excelling at cycling and cricket too.

The full Arthur Wharton’s story can be read in detail in his biography, ‘The First Black Footballer: Arthur Wharton 1865-1930’ by Phil Vasili, published by Frank Cass. The ISBN for the paperback edition is 978-0714644592 and for the hardback edition is 978-0714649030.

A memorial 16 foot statue of Arthur Wharton can be found at The Football Association’s St George’s Park depicting him tipping the ball over the bar.

Photograph of Arthur Wharton in action from Newcastle United Fanzine ‘True Faith.’

Arthur was part of a great line of Black footballers whose achievements can be seen as remarkable despite the racism they experienced.

Andrew Watson was arguably the ‘The Worlds First Black Football Superstar’ as set out in a book of the same title that I reviewed 19th November 2019.

Walter Tull who played for Clapton FC, Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town and is honoured with a statue in Northampton not only for his football but the fact that he was nominated for the Military Cross for his outstanding bravery in the First World War where he was the Army’s first ever Black officer to command white troops.

Jack Leslie the Plymouth Argyle legend who was picked for England in 1925 but not played because of the colour of his skin.

Viv Anderson the first black football player to represent England in a full international match. Not until 1978 though.

Brendon Batson, Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis, who were legends playing for West Bromwich Albion in the late 70’s and early 80’s and great roll models to all on how to succeed despite the racism they endured. A statue to them all in West Bromwich town centre is a fitting epitaph.

John Barnes, my personal favourite, was an outstanding player for Watford and Liverpool who suffered many racist chants but kept his cool and destroyed the prejudice not only on the pitch but also in his eloquent observations off it. I recently saw him on a Breakfast program that was trying to make an issue about racism in football but Barnes was cooly saying that it was not a football problem but a wider society one. He was dismissed by his interviewer who should now know that it was he who was wrong. My greatest memory of John Barnes play was a goal he scored at St Andrews in the FA Cup. I was sat in the stand with Birmingham supporters and when I stood up to celebrate the goal and his great skill I thought, why did I do that. To the Birmingham fans credit they all clapped because the skill was a wonder.

Marcus Rashford who humbled the Government into a U turn over free school meals this summer.

There are others but these are the ones that come to mind. There is surely enough material with regards these few alone to create a book about ‘Black Footballers Matter’.

‘You’re not singing anymore’

It is either inspired planning or incredible luck that Minnie Birch has today released an album of football songs interspersed with reminiscences by football fans called ‘You’re not singing anymore’.

With the season ready to re-start tomorrow with no crowds we can all watch on TV and sing the title song.

Will the anticipation be met with deflation as the atmosphere less stadiums echo to their past. The opener is at Villa Park where the Holte End has always been considered the twelfth man by their fans. It may be that if we listen carefully ‘Hi Ho Aston Villa’ will still be rumbling around this great old stadium.

Minnie Birch is a football fan, an ex Sunday League player and also a very good folk singer. If the demos you can hear on line are anything to go by she will do well in her genre of music.

Minnie’s renditions made me ponder on my favourite football chant and although I have heard songs and sung them ‘off key’ many times it is ‘He’s here He’s there He’s in the Rose and Crown, Rodney Green, Rodney Green.’ This was while watching Watford where Rodney Green played for them as an old fashioned Centre Forward between 1968 and 1970 scoring 8 goals in his 30 appearances, this was his swansong in English football.

Whether this was the current Rose and Crown at Kings Langley or the Rose and Crown just down the road from the ground on the High Street I don’t know. The one on the High street seems to have closed about the time of Rodney Green’s departure. I must also say that I have no knowledge of him ever going in the Rose and Crown. However he was a liked figure by the fans and would often acknowledge their chants.

Pennine Lancashire Football Culture


The British Textile Biennial this year is being hosted in the Pennine Lancashire Area this year with events being held between 3rd October and 3rd November.

This area produced 85% of the world’s cotton goods by the end of the 19th Century and some lives on today through manufacture, design and sales. The British Textile Biennial promotes the industry and encourages people of all ages to embrace the history and promotes the creation of new pathways in this exciting field.

On a recent visit to the area I found two of the events with Football relevance. At the former Burnley Mechanics Institute, now a venue for meetings, leisure and the arts Jacqui McCassey has presented an exhibition ‘Girl Fans’ a photo-zine of female football fans fashion. She has observed and recorded how female fans of Burnley F.C. and Burnley Womens F.C. express their identity. Jacqui’s images and and some ephemera are displayed on the walls of the lounge/bar and restaurant. A small free brochure is available to look at the images and some others at your leisure. Worth a tea/coffee and some time to take a look.


Also as part of the British Textile Biennial was an exhibition at the old Cotton Exchange in Blackburn between October 4th and 20th of Adidas trainers. The trainer has been synonymous with fashion, football and practicality for the last 50 years.


The Adidas Spezial Exhibition showcased over 1200 pairs of their trainers with many rare examples.

Gary Aspen the designer of the Spezial Range  is from nearby Darwen, a son of a Mill Worker, was presenting many of his own collection and many more. Gary is a passionate Blackburn Rovers fan and was showcasing the latest limited edition the ‘Blackburn Nightsafe’. All proceeds from the sale of 200 pairs of the £100 trainers will go to the homeless charity ‘Nightsafe’ based in Darwen. Donations for attending the display were also being collected.

“I’m absolutely over the moon about it. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me,” he said, his Lancastrian accent intact despite years spent working in London. “This is one of the top 10 poorest towns in Europe and I feel strongly that places like Blackburn, which have been hit badly by austerity, can be regenerated with the help of culture.”

Quote by Gary Aspen for an article by  North of England editor. The Guardian 



At the same time there is an exhibition at Townley Hall in Burnley, ‘Bob Lord, Burnley Born and Bred’ which runs until February 29, 2020.

Born in 1908 Bob Lord left school at 14 and built a meat empire employing hundreds of people. as a devoted Burnley fan he eventually became Club Chairman and had high influential positions in the game. His controversial comments did not endear him to everyone and you either loved or hated him.

In Burnley he is best remembered for their successful years in the 1960’s and the setting up of one of the best youth schemes and training grounds in the country, perhaps the forerunner of the modern academy.

The exhibition has some great photographs of his era at Burnley that came to an end just before his death in 1981. A short video has also been produced that is well worth watching.

Sheffield: The Home of Football


“Developed by Sheffield Libraries and Archives, the walking app tells the story of football’s early days and guides you around the historic sites that played a role in shaping the world’s most popular game.”

Sheffield’s undoubted influence on the early days of world football is well proved and Sheffield Council have in conjunction with local historians developed an App that you can follow on a 4.7 mile mapped walk by listening or reading about the background of places and people who fashioned football in the early years.

You visit 10 stops and become engrossed in the period when between 1857 and 1889 Sheffield had 95 football clubs and an influence on the game that is still felt today.

There is other information and stops to visit if you wish and having done the walk I would suggest you research by listening or reading the vast information available before undertaking the walk.

It is an amazing resource and truly helps to put Sheffield where it should be at the peak of football history in the country. Hopefully Sheffield FC’s efforts to build a new ground near to where they once started will come to fruition in the next few years and provide a place for a living museum to celebrate the vision of our footballing ancestors.

Even if you don’t live anywhere near Sheffield you can download the app and get an immersive experience of the past.


N.B. the images and initial quote are taken from the web site I have linked above.



Nearing the end of my walk back to the start I was seduced by the sausage roll offer at Heeley Bank Antique Centre Tea Room, I was not disappointed.

Football is everywhere, again.

Over the road from Barrow in Furness railway station on Abbey Road is a statue of Emlyn Hughes who I didn’t know had been born in the town in 1947. The statue is in Bronze, sculpted by Chris Kelley and unveiled in mid April 2008.

Known as ‘Crazy Horse due to his on field exploits of being competitive all over the field he was adored by the football community and the public at large because of his big heart, infectious laugh, voice and an incredibly fun character.

He started his career at Blackpool (28 appearances) but played most of his games for Liverpool, 665 appearances  with an incredible record of winning four league trophies, 1 F.A,cup, two European Cups, two UEFA Cups with them and a League Cup trophy with Wolves (58) appearances. He finished his career at Rotherham, Hull, Mansfield and Swansea as player and Manager. Emlyn also played many times for England some as captain and was awarded the OBE in 1988.

On the way back from the Barrow area a quick visit to Bradford Cathedral I came across another memorial but this time to the 56 people who lost their lives in the Bradford City Fire Disaster of 1985. Such tragedy was met with world wide generosity of a donated £4.25 million for the bereaved and injured and new safety and building regulations for sports stadiums.