Sir Bobby Charlton's grandson's poignant tribute to the England legend
‘Thank you for the stories, the laughter…and thank you for lifting us all up’: Sir Bobby Charlton’s grandson’s poignant tribute to the England legend at cathedral ceremony attended by Sir Alex Ferguson, Prince William and Gareth Southgate
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Sir Bobby Charlton’s grandson has paid a moving tribute to the Manchester United and England legend at an emotional cathedral funeral service in Manchester today.
William Balderston delivered the heartfelt tribute on behalf of the Charlton family saying he had been ‘inspired by his greatness and goodness’ as thousands of mourners gathered to bid farewell to Sir Bobby who died at Macclesfield Hospital on 21 October, aged 86.
Superstars from across the sporting world gathered to honour the Manchester United stalwart and World Cup winner at Manchester Cathedral, including Sir Alex Ferguson and Gareth Southgate as well as players past and present who have graced the Old Trafford turf.
In an emotional tribute to his grandfather, William reminisced about a time when Sir Bobby sped down a snowy hill at Christmas.
He said: ‘Not even once was there even a subtle brag about his achievements. He had a standard of modesty that everybody in the family strives to emulate.
‘As his grandson, I’ve been inspired not so much by his greatness as by his goodness. He was a deeply private and humble man. But he would also happily step away from privacy to give others a wonderful experience.
William Balderston (fourth from the left) outside Manchester Cathedral with his grandmother Lady Norma (right). William delivered a heartfelt tribute in memory of his grandfather
Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton died on October 21 at Macclesfield Hospital aged 86
Hundreds of mourners gather to say goodbye to the England legend as the funeral cortege passes the East Stand at Old Trafford
‘When my sister and I had been given sleighs one Christmas, he brushed snow off us to have a go himself, shooting down the hill at speeds I still can’t quite believe.
‘He was a fantastic storyteller. He would entertain us for whole afternoons and never look on it as a chore. Both he and my grandmother have shown us what devotion truly means.
‘Thank you for the stories, the laughter. And thank you for lifting us all up, to encourage us to follow our dreams, no matter how lofty they are. We are all so extraordinarily lucky to have had you.’
United legends Paul Scholes, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Steve Bruce, Mark Hughes, Bryan Robson, Peter Schmeichel and Andy Cole were among those attending the service this afternoon.
Current squad members Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Tom Heaton also joined mourners at the celebration of Sir Bobby’s extraordinary life, following his death last month.
Uefa president Aleksander Čeferin, ex-England striker and BBC presenter Gary Lineker, former United midfielders Michael Carrick and Ashley Young also attended.
Hundreds of supporters crammed into Cathedral Yard, the small square outside Manchester Cathedral, to wait for Sir Bobby’s cortege to arrive.
As the hearse drew up, the bells pealed followed by applause from the crowd, then hushed silence. Sir Bobby’s widow Lady Norma, 83, followed as pallbearers carried his coffin into the cathedral where the 1,000 guests included FA President Prince William and United legends including Brian Kidd and Alex Stepney, who were teammates in the 1968 European Cup-winning side.
Hundreds of waiting fans were invited off the street into the cathedral to pay their respects.
One of Manchester United’s greatest managers Sir Alex Ferguson attended the service and credited Sir Bobby for bringing him to the club
Norma Charlton looks on as Coffin is brought into Manchester Cathedral for the funeral of the Manchester United and England icon Sir Bobby Charlton, at Manchester Cathedral
The flowers and message from widow of Bobby Charlton, Norma Charlton, after the funeral ceremony at Manchester Cathedral
Sir Alex Ferguson leaves the funeral for Sir Bobby Charlton at Manchester Cathedral
Sir Bobby’s brother, Tom Charlton, attended the service honouring the England legend
Retired Manchester City star Mike Summerbee (right) talks to a member of the congregation as he leaves Sir Bobby’s funeral
Lady Norma Charlton leaves Manchester Cathedral following the funeral of Sir Bobby Charlton on November 13, 2023
A huge crowd gathered outside Old Trafford to watch the funeral procession
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson stopped to speak after the service. ‘It was very sombre,’ he said. ‘One of the tributes from his grandson, I thought was fantastic.
‘It’s not easy going up there and speaking. The speakers did a great job.
‘He was a fantastic man. I’m here United because of Bobby Charlton.’
He added: ‘The day I came, he supported me 100 per cent, all the way. He was totally behind me and everything we tried to do with youth.
‘I’m here because of Bobby Charlton.’
Speaking after the service, Manchester United 1968 European Cup winner Brian Kidd said: ‘It was a wonderful service. I think Bobby had unbelievable standards and epitomised what a Manchester United player should be, with his humility and empathy for people. Every Manchester United fan around the world will treasure memories of Sir Bobby. He’ll never be forgotten.’
Mourners inside the cathedral where greeted by Canon Nigel Ashworth, before an emotional rendition of How Great Thou Art by Russell Watson – who once sang at Old Trafford in 1999 when Man U beat Spurs to win the Premier League.
Speaking after the funeral, opera singer and Manchester United fan Mr Watson said: ‘First and foremost it was a great honour to be here. I had the privilege of meeting Sir Bobby on a few occasions. He was a fantastic footballer but primarily one of the things that came out at the funeral is that he was a wonderful human being who did so much for charity and was a wonderful man.
‘I thought it was a fantastic send-off.’
Pallbearers carry the coffin of England World Cup winner and Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton out of Manchester Cathedral
Former English footballer Brian Kidd attends the funeral of Sir Bobby Charlton
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Alex Stepney, who used to play with Sir Bobby, arrives at Manchester Cathedral
Richard Scudamore, former English Premier League CEO, was among the guests of honour at Sir Bobby’s send-off
Former manager Sir Alex Ferguson arrives at Manchester Cathedral alongside former Manchester United chief executive David Gill
Up to 1,000 guests, including some of the biggest names in British football, have started to arrive to honour the 86-year-old 1966 World Cup winner and Manchester United hero.
Wes Brown (right), former Manchester United star, paid his respects at the funeral. Singer Russell Watson (left) performed at Old Trafford in 1999 as Manchester United beat Spurs to win the Premier League. He also attended Sir Bobby’s send-off
Retired Man Utd player Brian Kidd (right) embraces with former Manchester City player Mike Summerbee
Former England striker Gary Lineker said Sir Bobby was a true legend of the sport whose name would forever remain in the history books.
He said: ‘You can go back on his career and there are so many things surviving the air crash to have the success he did, won the World Cup, top goal scorer at United for so long, there was so much on the pitch but there was so much off the pitch, you can sum him up and you could go in the world and even if they didn’t speak English they would know two names Bobby Charlton and that shows how much respect he had around the world.’
It was a sentiment shared by Anthony Horridge, 71, who was among the crowd outside the cathedral and recalled watching Sir Bobby in more than 250 games.
Mr Horridge, who saw Denis Law and George Best make their debuts, first watched Sir Bobby as a 24-year-old, and was at Wembley for United’s European Cup win in 1968, said: ‘We had such a good team, having Law, Best and Sir Bobby.
‘It was like having Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the same team. If George didn’t score, Denis Law didn’t score, you could rely on Bobby Charlton.
‘He’s without a doubt the greatest player ever.’
Mick Judge, 66, wearing a replica 1963 United shirt, said: ‘To me, he was the greatest player I’d ever seen, the only player who could play equally well on either foot and just a great man, a lovely man.’
Earlier, thousands of people had lined the streets of Sir Bobby’s beloved Manchester to witness the sporting giant’s final trip through the city before he is laid to rest later today.
Tommy Charlton (centre), brother of England World Cup winner and Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton, leaves Manchester Cathedral after attending a funeral service for his late brother, in Manchester
Gary Lineker championed Sir Bobby as one of the greatest English players to have ever lived. He is pictured leaving the funeral service
Former Manchester United star Paul Scholes, left, with ex-West Ham United player Mark Noble as they arrive of the funeral service for Sir Bobby Charlton at Manchester Cathedral
Ashley Young (right) leaves the funeral for Sir Bobby Charlton in Manchester this afternoon
Prince William the Prince of Wales pictured departing the Manchester United and England icon Sir Bobby Charlton’s funeral
Retired Real Madrid player Emilio Butragueno travelled to Manchester to pay his respects at Sir Bobby’s service
Scores of people line up to pay their respects as Sir Bobby’s hearse passed Old Trafford today
Outside of Old Trafford, a sea of floral tributes were left by fans who gathered to honour the sporting legend, while flags at the iconic football stadium were at half-mast in tribute to Sir Bobby.
One fan had climbed the 20-feet high bronze and marble United Trinity sculpture of George Best, Denis Law and Charlton to adorn the latter with a black, white and red scarf.
United marked the final journey of one of the club’s all-time greats with numerous black and white photographs depicting Charlton’s long and illustrious career as a player and a director and even his work with the Bobby Charlton Soccer Schools, an initiative which ran for nearly 45 years and helped discover David Beckham.
High on the glass wall of the East Stand were two huge black and white photographs – one of Charlton in his Busby Babes playing days and the other of him as the club’s elder statesman – either side of the words ‘Sir Bobby Charlton, 1937-2023. Forever Loved’. Above it Premier League and club flags flew at half-mast.
The crowd began to swell after 1pm and it ranged from mothers with prams to teenagers to those who would actually have seen Charlton play live in his pomp.
There were tourists with suitcases either coming to or leaving Manchester – Mancunians and Scandinavians coming together to pay their respects.
Elderly supporter Tony Bannister, 83, proudly sang the old songs celebrating Charlton, Best and Law and the Busby Babes. While his was a lone voice, his efforts were reciprocated with a gentle round of clapping from those nearby.
The coffin of Sir Bobby Charlton is carried by pallbearers out of Manchester Cathedral after his ‘sombre’ send-off
Prince William was among the guests of honour at the service, attended by about 1,000 people
Sir Alex Ferguson at the service for Sir Bobby Charlton’s funeral. The former Manchester United manager spoke afterwards and said it was ‘very sombre’
Gareth Southgate leaves the funeral clutching an order of service
Another man took it upon himself to reverentially wipe down the huge marble base of the statue by sculptor Philip Jackson where a wreath in club colours had been placed.
As the 1.30pm arrival time approached, representatives from United’s under-18 and under-21 teams formed a guard of honour flanking the Trinity statue and, after what had been a bright and clear morning, the first spots if rain started to fall as the cortege approached.
When it arrived at Old Trafford a quiet ripple of applause broke out and it rolled down both sides of the crowd, three or four deep behind the barriers, and got louder as the hearse carrying Charlton made its way slowly past the statue.
As it headed for the exit on Sir Matt Busby Way, named after Charlton’s manager of the 1950s and 60s, many of the crowd followed it out as best they could before it took a right turn and headed for Manchester Cathedral in the city.
There, the Prince of Wales, who is the president of the Football Association, Sir Alex Ferguson and England manager Gareth Southgate joined some of Charlton’s former team-mates as well as current and ex-United players to remember one of the game’s all-time greats.
Sir Bobby, who made 758 appearances for his club and earned 106 caps for his beloved country, died last month after a battle with dementia.
Lady Norma Charlton appeared emotional as she followed her husband’s casket into Manchester Cathedral today
Sir Bobby’s casket is carried into Manchester Cathedral as crowds watched on from outside
Among the other United legends at the funeral was ex-captain Ryan Giggs
Mourner wearing a Sir Bobby Charlton t-shirt following the funeral service for Sir Bobby Charlton
Among the fans invited into Manchester Cathedral for the funeral was Terry Wain, 73, from Welshpool.
Mr Wain, who was in the crowd at the 1968 European Cup final, said: ‘I came from mid-Wales to pay my respects and was outside the cathedral at about quarter past one when the stewards just said, there’s room for another 30 people, so we joined. It was a privilege and I can’t believe it happened to me.
‘It was typical of the man, exactly fitting that this happened.’
Another fan invited into the funeral, Heather Pownall, 55, of Cheadle Hulme, Manchester, said of the service: ‘It was absolutely beautiful, a fitting tribute.’
Jim Cunliffe, 76, who was at Wembley to watch Sir Bobby play for England at the 1966 World Cup Final, as well as at United’s European final two years later, said: ‘I’d previously seen Sir Bobby in a schoolboy international in the 1950s. Players like him, they were such nice people, they would stand outside after the match and talk to you. They don’t have the same personality now.’
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Alex Stepney, who attended the funeral and used to play with Sir Bobby, described him as a ‘classic gentleman’.
He said: ‘He was a classic gentleman of football… who can say they won everything for England and every trophy?’
Other legends of the game also came out to pay their respects.
‘Arguably we are talking about the greatest English footballer we have ever had,’ former United captain Steve Bruce told Sky Sports. ‘Then of course, he had class as a man too. So when you have the mixture of the two you can understand why there are going to be thousands of people lining the streets.
‘One simple thing he always said (when I joined United), ‘It’s a great club. Just enjoy it, enjoy the privilege of playing for this great football club.”
Another former United captain Bryan Robson called it a ‘sad day for football, for Man United and Sir Bobby’s family’.
‘He was a fantastic player, but not just that, he was a great person,’ Robson told Sky News.
Former Liverpool player Alan Kennedy arrives ahead of the funeral service for Sir Bobby Charlton at Manchester Cathedral,
Norma Charlton, Sir Bobby’s widow, bows her head as her husband’s casket is led into Manchester Cathedral
Mourners arrive at Manchester Cathedral to pay their final respects to Sir Bobby. Pictured is Bryan Robson, right, a former Manchester United player
Sir Bobby’s hearse arrives in Manchester outside of Old Trafford ahead of his funeral
Prince William has joined the guests at attending the funeral of Sir Bobby Charlton in Manchester
England manager Gareth Southgate arrives at Sir Bobby’s funeral today
Former England captain and Manchester United star Gary Lineker was also spotted arriving at the funeral today
Retired Manchester United goalkeeper Alex Stepney was among those paying tribute to Sir Bobby today
Floral tributes pictured outside of Old Trafford this afternoon
Gary Pallister, who played at the heart of the defence in United’s 1990s’ team, who was among mourners, said: ‘He is a large part of what Manchester United means to people around the world and the fan base that we have.
‘You’re in awe when you first meet him, it becomes second nature because he was always around the dressing room, around Old Trafford, and whenever you were there, you would bump into him. I remember sitting with him one night in the Champions League, just sitting in the center circle with him, watching shooting practice and just chatting and having a bit of a laugh with him.
‘Watching Scholesy pinging balls into the roof of the net, left foot, right foot, from all kinds of angles and, and Bobby just laughing about how good he was.
‘I remember going to every European away trip and seeing Bobby on the plane and I didn’t like flying, I was always a little bit nervous when I used to sit and look at him on a flight and think ‘if he can get in a plane, what am I worried about?’ I’m sure every time he got on a plane, he thought about that, but he wouldn’t miss a European trip.
‘The night of the Cup Winners Cup final in 1991, he came into the dressing room, and I think he sensed that there were probably a few nerves in there. And I just remember him sitting in there going, ‘lads, play the game, don’t play the occasion.’ Just trying to calm people down and give people a little bit of help. He was very calm, very relaxed and it was just great to have him in and around the dressing room.
‘He will be missed, players since he retired will all tell you exactly the same thing. He was great to talk to. A great ambassador for the club and not just Manchester United, he’s a great ambassador for England as a footballing nation and just a proper gentleman.’
An enormous poster depicting Charlton, who died on October 21 aged 86, in United colours was draped from the stadium’s exterior, while a message emblazoned across the stadium, said: ‘Sir Bobby Charlton, 1937 – 2023. Forever loved.’
On his way to Manchester Cathedral, Charlton’s cortege passed the ‘Holy Trinity’ statue, which depicts the England hero celebrating a goal with fellow United greats Denis Law and George Best.
A steady stream of fans gathered outside Old Trafford this morning to await Sir Bobby’s funeral procession.
Ex-Manchester United captains Steve Bruce (left) and Roy Keane (right) attended the funeral
Manchester United’s Tom Heaton, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw arrive at Manchester Cathedral
The funeral cortege of Bobby Charlton passes by Old Trafford
Sir Bobby’s casket was bedecked with white roses. People cheered and clapped as it passed
Pallbearers carry the coffin of Bobby Charlton as widow, Norma Charlton walks behind
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham arrived to pay his respects
As the hearse drew up, the bells pealed followed by applause from the crowd, then hushed silence
Many older fans had special memories of his playing career and personal encounters with the footballing legend.
Michael Webster, 71, grew up in Flixton, Greater Manchester, close to where Sir Bobby Charlton lived in a house provided by the club and recalled waiting on the street as a schoolboy to meet him coming home from training.
Mr Webster said: ‘Most days we’d wait for him and he always gave us the time of day.
‘He was just like a normal person going to the shops. It’s very hard to get near the players these days.
‘He was such a lovely man on and off the field.’
Mr Webster, who first saw Sir Bobby play when his uncle took him to matches aged nine and is these days a matchday steward at Old Trafford, added: ‘When I went on holiday to Turkey or Spain, I’d always take my Man United memorabilia and people would always just say ‘Ah, Bobby Charlton’.
‘There’ll never be another one. Eric (Cantona), Georgie Best, they were brilliant but he was unbelievable.
‘He put Manchester United on the map and I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about him.’
Chris Burns, 68, became a United fan as a 10-year-old and remembers seeing Sir Bobby in the World Cup semi-final in 1966. These days a season ticket holder in the Stretford End, Mrs Burns even named her son, now 36, Charlton as a tribute to her hero.
Thousands of people were expected to line the streets to watch the funeral procession
Crowds bowed their heads as Sir Bobby’s funeral procession passed Old Trafford
About 1,000 people were expected to attend today’s service honouring the England legend (pictured: Steve Bruce second from the right with his son Alex)
Prince William, the Prince of Wales, arrives in Manchester to honour Sir Bobby
Calum Best, son of Sir Bobby’s Manchester United teammate George Best arrives to pay his respects
Everton defender and former Manchester United title winner Ashley Young arrived to honour the life of a football great
‘I said I’m going to grow up and have a son and call him Charlton, and I did,’ an emotional Mrs Burns said.
She said he captured her imagination as a schoolgirl because of how he went on to success despite losing so many teammates in the Munich Disaster of 1958.
Growing up in Royal Tunbridge Wells, she first came to watch United in 1969 when her father brought her on the train.
Among her treasured mementoes is a picture of her son Charlton meeting his namesake in the 1990s.
Mrs Burns, who later moved to Manchester to work for the civil service and now lives in St Helens, added: ‘I’ve met Sir Bobby several times. In more recent years, we’d wait outside the directors’ box for him to arrive with his wife Norma, you’d smile at him, he’d put out his hand and you’d shake his hand and say I hope you’re doing well.
‘Norma would say, thank you, he’s doing OK, because he didn’t always answer.’
Sir Bobby was remembered as an ‘absolute gentleman,’ according to another devoted fan, Frank Worsley, 72.
Mr Worsley was among the crowd at Wembley when United beat Benfica 4-1 to become the first English club to win the European Cup in 1968 – when Sir Bobby Charlton scored twice.
He said: ‘That match, I’ll never forget. I bought a video of it and I still play it over and over again.’
Mr Worsley, a retired maintenance engineer whose company worked on redevelopment of Old Trafford in the 1990s, was among 200 fans chosen by the club to attend fellow United legend George Best’s funeral in 2005.
He said: ‘I just had to come today and pay my respects to Sir Bobby. He was a great ambassador for the club.’
Crowds cheered and clapped as they paid their final respects to Sir Bobby outside of Old Trafford stadium today
Sir Bobby’s ordered of service is revealed with him pictured on the front and then on the rear as a young man
Manchester United’s Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw arrive at Manchester Cathedral all wearing black
They were joined by Jonny Evans and almost 1,000 other guests at the ceremony today
Legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel arrived at Manchester Cathedral to pay his respects
Michael Carrick and Ole Gunnar Solskjær were also in attendance
Ex-Wales and Manchester United striker Mark Hughes was one of more than 1,000 guests arriving at the funeral
The former executive vice-chairman of Manchester United Ed Woodward arriving at Manchester Cathedral
Darren Fletcher arrived to honour the 86-year-old 1966 World Cup winner and Manchester United hero
Another fan with memories of the club’s great European triumph 55 years ago was Steve Bolton, 65.
The retired management consultant, of Knutsford, Cheshire, said: ‘I’m here to pay my respects to a great, great man.
‘He was the sweetest striker of a football I’ve ever seen.’
Mr Bolton, who has more recent memories of Sir Bobby doffing his trilby hat when he said hello to him in the supermarket, added: ‘He almost never got booked, he was a gentleman on and off the pitch, a legend – simple as that.’
For Mike Warburton, 69, from Stockport, who was at Old Trafford yesterday with his wife Christine, 67, and friend Mike Goddard, also 69, he ‘was the club’.
Mr Warburton said: ‘He was loved not only by fans of United but fans of many other clubs.’
Remembering his talent on the pitch, Mr Goddard recalled Sir Bobby scoring ‘two screamers that stand out to this day’, against Arsenal in 1965 and Tottenham in the Charity Shield.
Mrs Warburton added: ‘I always think he was driven by a bit of survivors’ guilt at having survived Munich. I think that fired him on. He was a total gentleman and an excellent player.’
Crowds are pictured waiting in anticipation of the funeral procession to make its way through Manchester
Prince William is pictured meeting cathedral officials ahead of the funeral of Sir Bobby
Former FA executive director David Davies (right) arrives ahead of the funeral service for Sir Bobby Charlton at Manchester Cathedral, Manchester
Widow of Bobby Charlton, Norma Charlton, after the funeral ceremony
A large police presence was visible in Manchester City centre on Monday morning.
The service at the cathedral will be led by Canon Nigel Ashworth and feature eulogies by family members and the club. It will remain private and won’t be filmed.
The great and the good of the football world will be among an expected 1,000 guests with United inviting representatives from every Premier League club.
Governing body chiefs, including Alison Brittain, chairman of the Premier League, Aleksander Ceferin, UEFA’s president as well as former presidents and directors of Manchester United were also in attendance.
It is expected every club will send a senior official to pay their respects to one of the best footballers England has ever produced.
Every living United captain has been invited to the service, alongside prominent former players including the Class of 92.
The club’s unpopular owners, the Glazer family, will also stay away amid fears of abuse from fans.
Other greats from the world of sport, including former Olympic champion Daley Thompson, are also expected.
Pictured: People watching Sir Bobby Charlton’s funeral cortege as it drives past the United Trinity statue
Charlton’s funeral cortege will past the Holy Trinity statue – depicting him with George Best and Denis Law – en route to Manchester Cathedral
Images of Charlton outside Old Trafford ahead of United’s home fixture against Luton
Charlton died at the age of 86 on October 21 following a fall at his Cheshire nursing home
Tributes were paid to Charlton ahead of the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on October 29
The United club legend will be sadly missed with thousands set to pay their respects
The gifted footballer, who was born in Ashington, Northumberland, on October 11 1937, is widely viewed as one of the greatest players to ever grace the game
Leading tributes today was Sir Bobby’s only surviving sibling, Tommy Charlton, who declared: ‘He was an icon to me but he was my big brother’, ahead of his funeral this afternoon.
Tommy Charlton, 77, believes the 1966 hero has been reunited with their older sibling Jack Charlton in heaven.
Tommy Charlton told the BBC: ‘He was my big brother. My fondest memories are when he was my brother. You’d meet him at the game and Bob would straighten your tie, and make sure your jacket was right and say you should have worn a different colour shirt. That was being a brother and I loved that’.
The gifted footballer, who was born in Ashington, Northumberland, on October 11 1937, is widely viewed as one of the greatest players to ever grace the game and played an integral role in England’s 1966 World Cup glory.
Following his death, Sir Geoff Hurst – who famously scored a hat-trick in England’s 4-2 victory over West Germany at Wembley – is now the only member of the team still alive.
Former England right-back George Cohen also died, aged 83, in December.
A statement from the family of Sir Bobby, who went on to have a remarkable career after surviving the Munich air disaster in 1958, said: ‘It is with great sadness that we share the news that Sir Bobby passed peacefully in the early hours of Saturday morning. He was surrounded by his family.
‘His family would like to pass on their thanks to everyone who has contributed to his care and for the many people who have loved and supported him. We would request that the family’s privacy be respected at this time.’
Sir Bobby and his brother Jack – who died three years ago – embrace after an England vs West Germany game in 1985. The brothers had a bitter feud but reconciled in later life
Bobby Charlton (R) celebrates England’s 1966 World Cup victory. From left to right: Jack Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Gordon Banks (behind), Alan Ball, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore, Ray Wilson, George Cohen and Bobby Charlton
Manchester United said ‘words will never be enough’ as they mourn ‘one of the greatest and most beloved players in the history of our club’, while England described Charlton, who had previously held the record as all-time top goalscorer for both England and United, as a ‘true legend of our game’.
United great David Beckham said Charlton was ‘truly a national hero.’
Beckham came through the ranks at Manchester United, having attended Bobby Charlton’s Soccer School and was given the middle name Robert as his father was such a fan of the 1968 European Cup winner.
‘It all began with Sir Bobby. Sir Bobby was the reason I had the opportunity to play for Manchester United…
‘I will be forever grateful to a man I was named after, someone I looked up to and was a hero to many around the world not just in Manchester and our country where he won the World Cup in 1966,’ Beckham posted on Instagram.
‘A true gentleman, family man and truly a national hero… Today isn’t just a sad day for Manchester United & England it’s a sad day for football and everything that Sir Bobby represented…
Charlton (in a Munich hospital) survived the Munich air disaster in 1958 when he was just 20 years old which tragically killed eight of United’s Busby Babes and 23 people in total
Sir Bobby Charlton is pictured representing his country against Wales in April 1970
‘Our thoughts go out to Lady Norma, their daughters and grandchildren x Rest in Peace Sir Bobby x @manchesterunited @england Today our hearts are heavy.’
Sir Geoff Hurst noted: ‘We will never forget him & nor will all of football.’
Prince William, who is president of the FA, has described Sir Bobby Charlton as ‘a true great who will be remembered forever’ in a personal message on social media.
The Prince of Wales said: ‘Sir Bobby Charlton. First Division Champion. European Champion. World Champion. Gentleman. Legend. A true great who will be remembered forever. Thank you Sir Bobby. W’ said the tribute posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called him ‘one of the game’s greatest players’.
Charlton’s death was announced as Saturday’s 3pm kick-offs were preparing to start the second half, and – following their 2-1 win over Brighton – Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola paid his respects.
‘On behalf of the Manchester City family to his family, to the Man United family and for England football – these type of football players and personalities represent English football like no-one else can do it,’ he said.
‘So condolences from all of us, for his family especially. Next week when we go to Old Trafford, we’ll be present to make a first tribute.
Sir Bobby Charlton was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994, having previously been awarded the OBE and CBE
‘I love this country for many things, but one of those things is how they take care of the legends of each club.
‘They are part of the club and they travel and they represent them. I think Sir Bobby Charlton represented United and English football like no-one else.’
Middlesbrough manager and former Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick said he was ‘devastated’ to hear of Charlton’s death.
He said: ‘My mind went back to the moments I shared with Bobby – an inspirational character and such an iconic figure, you don’t always get those in world football.
‘In a Manchester United family, he cared so much about the players, the club and showed nothing but pure support for us in his blazer and suit. He was proud to show what it was about to play for Manchester United and pass that on.
‘He had an incredible career and to be in a position to be humble enough to pass that on to support the players, when he could have just been a figure, is so inspirational.’
Bobby Charlton with his wife Norma and two daughters Suzanne and Andrea in their garden at home in the 1960s
This is believed to be the last photo of Sir Bobby Charlton on February 20, 2021. He received a vaccine to help protect him against COVID-19 as celebrities tried to encourage as many people to get the jab
Sir Bobby Charlton (pictured holding a ball with United written on it during an interview with local press at a hotel in Hong Kong in 2005) will forever go down as one of the greatest players to play for Man United and England
Sir Bobby had withdrawn from public life since he was diagnosed with dementia in November 2020, just four months after his elder brother Jack Charlton – another 1966 hero – died aged 85.
The brothers famously had a bitter feud for several decades but made amends later in life. Sir Bobby was, however, unable to attend his brother’s funeral due to illness. He was last photographed in public bravely posing for a Covid-19 jab to encourage others to do the same.
Sir Bobby was one of five of England’s 1966 winners to suffer from dementia after his brother, Nobby Stiles, Ray Wilson and Martin Peters.
The midfielder, who joined United as a schoolboy in 1953, embarked on an extraordinary career after surviving the Munich air disaster – when he was 20 – which tragically killed eight of United’s Busby Babes and 23 people in total.
In a glittering 17-year spell with United – where he played as if every game was for his fallen team-mates – he won three league titles, the FA Cup and captained the Red Devils when they became the first English club to win the European Cup.
Sir Bobby, known for his powerful shooting and distinctive hairstyle, scored 249 goals for Man United – including two in the famous 1968 European Cup final win over Benfica.
Charlton is one of the ‘Holy Trinity’ along with George Best and Denis Law who are immortalised in a statue outside Old Trafford. In 2016, he also had the South Stand at the iconic stadium named after him which is opposite the Sir Alex Ferguson stand.
Sir Bobby also scored 49 goals for his country and won the Ballon d’Or in 1966 for his part in England’s World Cup triumph.
England paid tribute following his death, writing: ‘It is with a heavy heart that we have learned of the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton. An integral part of our 1966 FIFA World Cup winning campaign, Sir Bobby won 106 caps and scored 49 times for the #ThreeLions. A true legend of our game. We will never forget you, Sir Bobby.’
His goal records for club and country both lasted decades until they were overtaken by Man United legend Wayne Rooney, with Harry Kane more recently taking over as England’s top marksman.
Following his retirement from football, Sir Bobby managed Preston North End from 1973 to 1975 and was later director at Wigan Athletic. Returning to United as a member of the board of directors in 1984, Sir Bobby was a constant presence at Old Trafford until recent years.
He and his wife Lady Norma – who were married for over 60 years – would take their seats week in, week out to watch the Red Devils march out and play at the Theatre of Dreams.
Sir Bobby – who’s bitter feud with his brother Jack was well documented – was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994, having previously been awarded the OBE and CBE.
He also set up the Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation in 2011 which focused on removing landmines in former war zones.
Following Sir Bobby’s death, Sir Geoff Hurst is now the only surviving member of England’s 1966 World Cup side
Bobby Charlton and his wife Norma leave St. Gabriel’s church in Middleton, near Manchester, England, after their wedding on July 22, 1961
Sir Alex Ferguson once praised Sir Bobby for how he ‘handled the greatness’. In a tribute on his 80th birthday, the former United manager said: ‘Success can change people, and it’s never changed Bobby Charlton. He is what he is: quiet, shy and I think it’s fantastic.
‘An example for anyone who enters football. He has never forgotten his roots. That girl Norma has been his rock, all his life. She’s an unbelievable person and that is a great partnership.
‘I think he was responsible for me getting the job at Manchester United. We used to go to games all the time — although I don’t think Bobby enjoyed my driving! — so it was a great introduction.’
Sir Geoff Hurst was one of the first to pay tribute to Charlton, tweeting: ‘Very sad news today 1 of the true Greats Sir Bobby Charlton has passed away.
‘We will never forget him & nor will all of football… a great colleague & friend he will be sorely missed by all of the country beyond sport alone. Condolences to his family & friends from Geoff and Judith.’
Hurst once described his former team-mate as ‘one of the most gifted players of this or any generation’.
Manchester United said they were mourning ‘one of the greatest and most beloved players in the history of our club’
Sir Bobby Charlton (pictured with trophy) captained his side to winning the 1968 European Cup final
He scored 249 goals for Man United – including two in the famous 1968 European Cup final win over Benfica. Pictured: Charlton with his manager Sir Matt Busby (second from right), Jimmy Murphy (left) and Jack Crompton after the final
Bobby Charlton receives the Footballer of the Year Award in 1966 – the same year he won the World Cup with England
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