Childhood & Early Life
Sir Bobby Charlton was born Robert Charlton, on October 11, 1937, in Ashington, Northumberland, England, to Bob and Cissie Charlton. He grew up with two brothers, Jack and Tommy.
His father worked as a coal miner, and the family lived amidst humble conditions. However, the love for the game of football existed in the family from the beginning. Bobby’s mother, Cissie, was a huge football fanatic, and many male members from her own family, such as Jack and George Milburn, were professional footballers.
Bobby credits his mother and his grandfather for letting his love for football develop early in life. His brothers, too, loved football as kids. All three brothers spent their childhood playing together. His older brother, Jack, later built a career in the game and played for ‘Leeds United.’
By the time he stepped into his teenage years, Bobby had grown into a good young footballer. He attended a local grammar school in Bedlington and played football there. He was 15 when he was spotted by a scout from the ‘English Premier League’ team ‘Manchester United.’ He was looking for young talents who could be polished into professional footballers.
At the age of 15, Bobby also played for the ‘England Schoolboys.’ In early 1953, he signed with ‘Manchester United.’
However, his family was not financially strong, and his mother was worried about what might happen to him in future if he did not succeed as a footballer. On her insistence, he completed an apprenticeship to become an electrical engineer. By the next year, however, he was practicing football full-time at the ‘Manchester United’ grounds.
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In October 1956, he made his debut for the first team of ‘Manchester United,’ against ‘Charlton Athletic.’ He was also doing his “National Service” at the same time. He managed to attend training sessions for football and complete his service at the same time. Over the next few years, he made a permanent place for himself on the team.
In the first season, he played 14 games for ‘Manchester United.’ He scored 2 goals in his debut game, playing as a midfielder. He scored a total of 12 goals in all the competitions that season, which was a big achievement, considering it was his debut year.
By the beginning of the second season, Bobby had become one of the star players on the team. The year 1957 also marked the first time any ‘English Premier League’ team made its place in the ‘European Cup.’ The team reached the semi-finals, where they lost the game to ‘Real Madrid.’ The team performed in the next season’s ‘European Cup,’ too, eventually reaching the quarter-finals.
In 1958, he was one of the first-hand witnesses of the Munich air disaster, which had shaken the world back then. The team was traveling on a plane that had stopped at the Munich airport to refuel. After two unsuccessful take-off attempts, the plane crashed, leaving many players badly injured. Bobby sustained cuts to his head and severe shock. He was hospitalized for a week but resumed playing shortly.
In the ‘European Cup’ that year, the team lost to Milan in the semi-finals. However, the team management was greatly impressed with the performance of the team. Bobby had made a special place on the team and had been one of the key factors behind his team performing well in back-to-back seasons.
In the finals of the 1963 ‘FA Cup,’ the team continued with its exceptional form and beat ‘Leicester City’ to win the cup. Thus, Bobby earned a winners’ medal in his third final.
In 1965 and 1967, the team won two league championships. Following the Munich incident, a strong team-building process had become necessary. This performance assured the managers that the team was heading into the right direction.
The team reached the finals of the ‘European Cup’ again in 1968, after 10 seasons. In the 4–1 victory of ‘Manchester,’ over ‘Benfica,’ Bobby scored 2 goals, leading his team to the first ‘European Cup’ victory for the team. By then, he had also become the captain of the team.
However, this great form came to an end in the early 1970s. The team management and several players had disputes, which led to a rift in the team. Hence, the team’s performance was largely affected. In 1973, Bobby left ‘Manchester United.’
During his time with ‘Manchester,’ he had emerged as one their best players, scoring 199 goals in the 606 games that he played for the team.
In 1974, he joined ‘Preston North End.’ He scored 8 goals in the 38 games he played for them. He quit ‘Preston’ in 1975 and began playing single seasons with other teams, before he officially retired from professional football in 1980.
He had also been a member of the English football team in four ‘FIFA World Cup’ tournaments, in 1958, 1962, 1966, and 1970. However, he did not get to play in his first ‘World Cup.’ His performance in the ‘FIFA World Cup’ in 1966 won him the top honor ‘Ballon d’Or.’
In 1973, after becoming the manager of ‘Preston North End,’ he signed his former ‘United’ and England teammate Nobby Stiles as a player-coach of the team. In 1983, he was appointed as a director at ‘Wigan Athletic.’ The following year, he was invited to become a member of the board of directors at ‘Manchester United.’ He stayed in the position until 2018.