IAN LADYMAN: We have more reason than ever to cherish Bobby Charlton

IAN LADYMAN: We have more reason than ever to cherish Sir Bobby Charlton… there has never been a greater ambassador for Manchester United and his sport

  • Sir Bobby Charlton is the only survivor of the 1958 Munich disaster still with us 
  • We have more reason to cherish him as enthusiastically as at Manchester United 
  • There has never been a greater ambassador for both the club and also the sport 
  • The 1966 World Cup final is worth watching again to witness Charlton’s display

Lamenting this week of the passing of Harry Gregg, I found myself thinking about Sir Bobby Charlton and, in turn, the 1966 World Cup final.

Charlton is now the only survivor of the 1958 Munich disaster still with us. As such, we have more reason than ever to cherish him as enthusiastically as they do at Manchester United. A greater ambassador for his club and his sport there has never been.

In terms of the 1966 final, it is worth watching again, not only to witness Charlton’s supreme part in it but also for a little of what it tells us about football then and football now.

There is no greater ambassador for the sport and Manchester United than Sir Bobby Charlton 

It is actually quite hard to get hold of a copy of the whole game. It is not on the internet. The best I could do when we celebrated its 50th anniversary four summers ago was to buy a BBC DVD featuring the very extended highlights.

It contains the vast majority of the game and is worth the effort. To watch England’s most glorious sporting afternoon from a distance of half a century is illuminating.

Charlton is certainly magnificent on the footage — especially over the first hour. On a poor, heavy pitch, he is the best passer, in terms of vision and execution, by a country mile.

Franz Beckenbauer, at 20 the rising star of German football, is utterly anonymous by comparison. Both English full backs, George Cohen and Ray Wilson, are poor.

Veterans of that game have always said Alan Ball was the man of the match, and over the course of the 120 minutes that stacks up today. As others tire around him, Ball keeps going, metronomically. It’s a Herculean effort from one of the most selfless players we have known.

It is worth watching the 1966 World Cup final again to enjoy Sir Bobby’s supreme showing

But a slightly more uncomfortable truth is that in terms technical proficiency, speed and athleticism, the final is a markedly different spectacle when compared with much of what we see today. Despite the drama, much of the actual football is unimpressive.

Certainly, both teams appear hindered by the failure of the surface to cope with the 24 hours of rain that preceded the game.

More than 50 years ago, the standard of the players’ boots and of the ball itself were in nobody’s favour.

Even so, it is hard to ignore the number of rather hopeful, long balls played by both sides, the consistent inability to pass accurately over longer distances, and the way corner kicks are just lumped aimlessly in to the penalty area. If this sounds a little sacrilegious, buy a copy of the DVD and have a look for yourself.

But the final is a markedly different spectacle when compared with much of what we see today

Comparing eras is very difficult and some may say it’s pointless. Who is to say that — blessed with the facilities, conditioning and medicine now available — the great players of yesterday would not have been the great players of today? The likes of Charlton and Ball would have thrived in any era. They were tactically freer back then, too, and that must have been a blessing.

Nevertheless, if ever we are in doubt as to the standards we are fortunate to witness today, a proper look back through history can be helpful. On the whole, we really are very lucky, even if our weekly episodes of Premier League action continue to be cursed by the wrecking ball they call VAR.

Now there is a thought: VAR at the 1966 World Cup final. They would never have got the game finished in daylight.

The bad news is that Michel Platini has not gone away. The former UEFA president’s four-year ban for accepting a £1.35million payment from Sepp Blatter in 2011 has now expired and Platini tells The Times he has his eye on the presidency of the players’ union, Fifpro.

One day Fifpro may get a seat on the board at UEFA and FIFA, meaning that Platini would be back where he should never again be tolerated — in the thick of it.

How desperately depressing.

Disgraced former UEFA president Michel Platini has his eye on the presidency of Fifpro

Burnley’s season has been like the last one on repeat. Slide towards trouble, then win a string of games to get out of it again.

This time it has been wins against Southampton, Leicester, Manchester United, Bournemouth and a draw against Arsenal. Last season it was Wolves, Bournemouth, Cardiff and a draw at Chelsea.

They had some luck this weekend but manager Sean Dyche has the knack of galvanising players when he really needs them and it’s a precious gift.

The question is: when will someone at a bigger Premier League club realise that he has got it?

The question remains whether big clubs recognise Sean Dyche’s ability to galvanise his players

Those who are so quick to praise Diego Simeone for his abilities as a defensive coach tend to overlook one thing. His Atletico Madrid are a desperately dirty side and they also cheat.

Watching them beat Liverpool last week reminded me of the way they played when running Real Madrid so close in the 2014 Champions League final. 

That night in Lisbon, Gareth Bale and Angel di Maria were kicked so regularly and mercilessly by Simeone’s goon squad, it was a miracle they were still standing by the time extra-time was played. 

Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid are a desperately dirty side and are also known to cheat

Of the 10 outfield players who started for Atletico, seven were booked.

Simeone can certainly coach and has found a way to infiltrate the Barcelona-Real duopoly in La Liga. It is this that will inevitably lead to a move to a club in the Premier League.

But when he gets here, we know what he will bring with him, and not much of it will be pretty.

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