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Local fans fondly recall encounters with ‘Big Jack’

LOCAL people have been fondly recalling their encounters with former international footballer and Irish manager Jack Charlton.

Mr Charlton, 85, died on Friday having suffered from both Lymphoma and Dementia.

A 1966 World Cup winner with England, the former Leeds defender will best be remembered on this side of the Irish Sea for his unprecedented success with the Republic of Ireland soccer team who he led to the 1988 European Championships in Germany and successive World Cups in Italy and the US in 1990 and 1994 respectively.

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He was a giant of a man in every sense of the word and Mickey Kelly vividly remembers seeing Charlton’s World Cup winners’ medal during a visit to Omagh in the mid seventies.

“Jackie Charlton visited Strathroy when the annual seven-a-side competition was being played,” recalled the community officer.

“He was a real gentleman, he had his World Cup medal that he won with England and a couple of medals he won with Leeds.

“He spent a few hours there and talked to the boys about his career and so on. I remember him saying that his brother Bobby was the star and he got left behind when he was a boy.

“Bobby went to Man United and then Jack came through at Leeds. He told them he thought he wouldn’t make the Leeds team but that he went on to captain them.

“He went on to tell them how he was called into the England team and how he and his brother Bobby went on to win the World Cup.

“Jackie then came down to community centre. There was a judo club there being run by Paul Sweeney and Michael McGlade and he watched that and had a few photographs taken with the locals.

“There was a great turnout from the local community and it really was something special to see an international superstar like that in Strathroy.”

A few years later Charlton returned to Omagh in a coaching capacity and after taking a training session with Omagh Town the club’s secretary Pat McGlinchey remembers him retiring to the Sedan Avenue social club for some refreshment.

“I remember setting Jack up a pint and presenting him with a membership form for Omagh Town which he duly signed. I had it framed and put up behind the bar.”

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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