Film highlights spectrum of love for Leeds United great Jack Charlton and memories that will live on

FILMAKERS Gabriel Clarke and Pete Thomas went in search of Jack Charlton and found a man robbed of his memories but not his greatness.

Monday, 16th November 2020, 5:45 am

Their beautiful but heartbreaking documentary Finding Jack Charlton is released on DVD and digital download on 23 November, a little over four months since the Leeds United legend’s passing.

Filmed in the final 18 months of his life, it sheds light on the tragic impact of dementia on Charlton and explains his own impact on Irish football.

His decade in charge of the Republic of Ireland is the main focus for good reason.

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ADORED: Former Leeds United and England star turned Ireland manager Jack Charlton, pictured for the Whites against Manchester City back in September 1968. Photo by Keystone/Getty Images.

He not only changed their footballing fortunes but helped change a national psyche.

Roddy Doyle gives insight on the geo-political backdrop to Charlton’s appointment and the controversy that greeted an Englishman taking the reins.

That Charlton went on to become as beloved in Dublin as he was in Leeds says much about the man’s bloodymindedness as it does his achievements in the job.

His appointment might have been a footballing decision but his tenure was always about so much more than a game.

As the documentary works its way through his 10 years in the job, it weaves in the context of his past and nods to the people and events who helped shape him.

“I talk too much, sometimes,” we hear Charlton say, in an interview from years previous.

But words, from the Charlton we see in his home with wife Pat, are few and far between.

So it is left to people who were part of his story to tell it and left to old footage and his handwritten notes to remind us of his mischievous wit, charm and bluntness.

There are two wonderful moments when Charlton’s face lights up. One is when he joshes and plays with his grandkids at home. The other is when he recognises Paul McGrath.

One of Ireland’s greats gives generously of himself, talking openly of the demons that plagued him from the harshest of childhoods through to a career of public highs and the lowest of private lows.

Charlton’s attempts to to take care of McGrath show another side to a boss known for a my-way-or-the-highway approach.

We’re told he learned from Don Revie to decide what it was he liked and to be dogmatic, and there were casualties, like David O’Leary.

Others, like legendary kitman Charlie O’Leary, talk of a ‘master of man-management.’

Throughout their qualification for Germany 88, Italia 90 and USA 94, there is so much more at play than results.

From getting one over the English to leading a team into Belfast amid unbearable tension, Charlton managed through a remarkable period of Irish history and was credited with helping the people to reclaim their tricolour flag.

The man the Pope called ‘the boss’ guided the boys in green to famous results abroad that sparked pandemonium back home and earned him Irish citizenship.

The film refuses to gloss over the awkwardness of his relationship with Bobby or the manner of his departure from the Republic of Ireland job.

It does not sugarcoat the end of his life or the trauma dementia brings to families.

“I couldn’t remember a lot of the memories,” the World Cup winner says helplessly to Pat, after sitting at a laptop and watching his historic exploits.

But he lived them. And they live on.

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Thank you Laura Collins