Sir Bobby Charlton: The perfect gentleman, the perfect footballer

Sir Bobby Charlton: The perfect gentleman, the perfect footballer… I am fortunate to have known Sir Bob – he dedicated his life to Manchester United

  • Sir Bobby Charlton’s death was announced on Saturday and shocked the world
  • The 1958 Munich air disaster made him determined to succeed during his life
  • Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’

Sir Bob, as I knew him, dedicated his life to Manchester United and I consider myself very fortunate to have known him.

He was described by Sir Matt Busby, his great mentor, as ‘near perfection for a man and player as it is possible to be’. That summed him up.

He was immensely talented, but what happened at the 1958 Munich air disaster made him all the more determined to succeed, not so much for himself but for those beloved friends and team-mates he lost.

The legacy of the Busby Babes and the style in which they played has long been the template for how United teams should perform and he, above everyone, carried that forward.

He was a humble, very private man despite what he achieved and kept his emotions to himself.

Sir Bobby Charlton was the perfect gentleman off the field and the perfect footballer on it

Former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson has explained how Charlton dedicated his life to the club

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But when I became an ambassador for United, I got to know him better.

I would often join Sir Bob for the annual memorial in Munich to commemorate those who lost their lives in the fateful crash of 1958.

I know he often said he felt guilt for being one of those that survived but he never wanted to talk about it. Then one day I plucked up the courage to say, ‘tell me what happened’.

He walked with me to where the plane ended up and up the road to the old airport, talking me through what he remembered.

Sir Matt Busby (second right) described him as ‘near perfection for a man and player as it is possible to be’

It was incredibly emotional for him and even more so for me listening to him open up about that night. As we walked and talked, I felt incredibly privileged for him to share those moments with me. So much so that I’ve never told the details of that conversation and never will out of respect to him. All I can say is he did those great friends proud. He was the perfect role model for every player.

A man of principle with impeccable morals, he was kind, considerate but also a great competitor. Pele, Eusebio, Franz Beckenbauer, his great peers, all had great respect for him not just because he was a gentleman, but they recognised he was a hell of a player and with an aggressive edge.

It meant everything to me, when I signed for United from West Bromwich Albion in 1981, that he came to find me. That always stuck with me.

He will stand justifiably, forever, as a giant of club and country; always remembered as the perfect gentleman, the perfect footballer.


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football, launching with a preview show today and every week this season.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube , Apple Music and Spotify

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