The football community was devastated and shocked at the fact that legendary Robert Charlton, best known as ‘Bobby’ had gone the way of all flesh at the age of 86.
Charlton died after a long battle with dementia, being diagnosed with the illness in November 2020. Just like William Shakespeare would say in his book ‘Julius Caesar’, “The valiant never taste of death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear; seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.”
His death came when it came, leaving many fans wondering when it was announced on Saturday, October 21, 2023, ten days after his birthday, the Manchester United great could not wait to say goodbye to his Old Trafford reds as they destroyed Sheffield United.
Charlton was born in Ashington, Northumberland, England, on October 11, 1937, to coal miner Robert “Bob” Charlton, and Elizabeth Ellen “Cissie”.
The 1966 World Cup winner was a long-time record goalscorer for both Manchester United and England. He was also Man United’s long-time record appearance maker; his total of 758 matches for the Old Trafford outfits was broken in 2008 by Ryan Giggs, when he featured in that year’s Champions League final against Chelsea.
With 249 goals, Bobby was Manchester United’s highest all-time goal scorer for more than 40 years, until his record was surpassed by Wayne Rooney in 2017.
The legend was also the third-highest goal scorer for England; his record of 49 goals was beaten in 2015 by Rooney, and again by Harry Kane in 2022.
Charlton could be said to have inherited football from his mother’s side of the family: his uncles were Jack Milburn played for Leeds United and Bradford City, and George Milburn for Leeds United and Chesterfield.
Jim Milburn played for Leeds United and Bradford Park Avenue, and Stan Milburn for Chesterfield, Leicester City, and Rochdale, and legendary Newcastle United and England footballer Jackie Milburn was his mother’s cousin.
His elder brother, Jack, initially worked as a miner before applying to the police, only to also become a professional footballer with Leeds United.
Charlton became a united player after he was spotted playing for East Northumberland schools by Joe Armstrong, the club’s chief scout on February 9, 1953, then a Bedlington Grammar School pupil.
The 15-year-old signed amateur forms with United on January 1, 1953, along with Wilf McGuinness, also aged 15.
He worked his way through the pecking order of teams, scoring regularly for the youth and reserve sides before he was handed his first team debut against Charlton Athletic in October 1956.
The lanky footballer played 14 times for United in that first season, scoring twice on his debut and managing a total of 12 goals in all competitions, including a hat-trick in a 5–1 away win over Charlton Athletic.
United won the league championship but were denied the 20th century’s first “double” when they controversially lost the 1957 FA Cup Final to Aston Villa.
He became an English football legend after surviving the horrific 1958 Munich plane crash. He was a key player in England’s 1966 World Cup victory, the year he also won the Ballon d’Or.
Gary Lineker, former England superstar described Charlton as a truly wonderful footballer and genuinely lovely man.
“Deeply saddened to hear that Sir Bobby Charlton has died. A truly wonderful footballer and a genuinely lovely man.
A World Cup winner, @ManUtd is great and, for me, England’s greatest-ever player. He may no longer be with us but he’ll have footballing immortality. RIP Sir Bobby.”
Gary Neville, former Manchester United captain in his tribute explained how Charlton’s exploits set a path for other players to follow.
“So sorry to hear the news of Sir Bobby Charlton. The greatest English football-player, and Manchester United’s greatest ambassador.
A champion on, and off the pitch; and a Busby Babe that paved the way for all to come at United. Rest In Peace Sir Bobby.”
Rio Ferdinand, ex-Manchester United defender said: “So sorry to hear the news of Sir Bobby Charlton. The greatest English football player, and Manchester United’s greatest ambassador.”
Ferdinand also revealed a heart-warming account of the words that the man himself said to him before lifting the UEFA Champions League trophy in 2008 after United beat Chelsea in a dramatic penalty shootout in Moscow.
“Icon, legend, great! These words are thrown around by all of us to many who 100 percent don’t deserve them, especially when you compare them to a man of Sir Bobby’s calibre,” Ferdinand added.