PADDY CRERAND: Bobby Charlton’s Graceful Ball Control Leaves Me Wondering About His Dominant Foot

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He was a lovely man, Bobby. We’ve known each other for such a long time. He was a gentleman of the highest class.

He never said a bad word about anybody. Moaned on the pitch like you wouldn’t believe, mind you, but off it he’d be the perfect gentleman. I smile as I think about it even now, God bless him. He was dreadful. 

He wanted everything to be perfect. I remember saying to him one day, ‘Bobby, you give everybody a hard time but you know something? We’re not as good as you’.

He expected everybody to have the ability he did. We couldn’t do the things he could and he found that strange.

There isn’t any better player for England than Bobby Charlton. With Manchester United, I would think probably the same. With what he went through in his life and did for United over the years.

Sir Bobby Charlton wanted everything to be perfect on the pitch and loved a moan when playing football

He was the perfect gentleman off the pitch, however, and was a truly fantastic footballer

He was the perfect gentleman off the pitch, however, and was a truly fantastic footballer

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He was an absolutely fantastic player. When he got the ball, he looked so beautiful the way he ran. And you ask anybody who’s seen him play what was his favourite foot. I had no idea. His left foot was as good as his right. He was such a natural with both. 

He scored all those goals and he wasn’t a striker. Maybe before I came to United, but they moved him into the middle of the park and he was a great passer of the ball.

But you give Bobby Charlton the ball 35 yards from goal and there was a strong possibility it would go in. He played the same role for England and had a great scoring record for them as well. 

I played for Scotland against England and the first thing we said when somebody mentioned Bobby Charlton was the nearest player to him, kick him. Never mind the ball, kick him. That’s the only way you’ll stop him. But he was such a lovely fella. I don’t think I ever heard him swear.

Fans everywhere loved Bobby because of his ability and the way he behaved. He was a big name in Scotland when I was playing at Celtic. When I got to United, I couldn’t believe how humble he was. 

If somebody said good things about him, he would get a wee bit embarrassed. He was very shy, actually. He found praise hard to take. If he saw the coverage over the last couple of days, he would be embarrassed about what people think of him.

Off the pitch, he couldn’t have been more different from George Best, but George was a lot younger than Bobby. Jackie Charlton was a great lad as well, but totally opposite.

Charlton had so much ability on the pitch and expected everyone to have the same ability as him

Charlton had so much ability on the pitch and expected everyone to have the same ability as him

George couldn’t handle the fame like Bobby could. He didn’t like how George carried on but what can you do about it? They were still great friends on the pitch, but they led totally different lives off it.

In all the time I was at United, nobody ever mentioned Munich — Bobby, Sir Matt Busby or Jimmy Murphy. People that were affected by it all never spoke about it. But it was always there.

You’d be right to think winning the European Cup in ’68 meant that bit more to Bobby. We had a dinner after the game and he was just delighted. At the final whistle, every one of us ran towards Bobby. Can you believe that? 

Ten players rushing at one fella. He cried. That was how much it affected him. I’d never seen him cry but Bobby cried that night and you can imagine why after what he’d been through. The memories he had and the team-mates he lost.

I haven’t seen Bobby for a long time because he hasn’t been well, but I know his wife exceptionally well too and she’s a lovely person, Norma. It’s a sad occasion.

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