Watching and reading the tributes to Jack Charlton has been very moving. It was sad knowing a great man had passed away. But generally, when I think of Jack it just brings a smile to my face, partly because he gave me some of the best football moments of my life with the Republic of Ireland but also because just being in his company was great.

Jack was so funny – he always had a quip. And sometimes he was funny without even knowing it. When he was in relaxed mood and able to have a pint of Guinness, he was just fabulous to be with. But Jack could be ruthless too. He had to make tough decisions and stuck to his guns. He didn’t suffer fools and was a great leader.

Before Jack was appointed as Ireland manager in 1986 we had very good players but lacked direction and didn’t make it to major competitions. He made us a team who believed we could beat anyone.

I missed his first few games because of injury but when I came in it was clear he had his ideas and was very straight about them. He knew the style and system he wanted and if he thought players didn’t suit it, he didn’t use them – even Liam Brady.

Training was designed around how we wanted to play, so a lot of longer balls. Critics said that with the players he had, he could have played a more intricate style, but we had tried that before and not got the results, and we bought into what Jack wanted. What the critics also overlooked is when you have Steve Staunton on the left and Chris Hughton or Denis Irwin at right-back the long balls had quality.

Jack didn’t like taking risks with the ball in our own half, so he said: “Let’s get it into the opposition half.” Over a period of time we took fewer and fewer chances and played more longer balls.

We started winning by catching teams by surprise and winning balls in their half. That was unusual in those days. I don’t think Jack got the credit he deserved as a coach – he was very shrewd. People talk about the pressing of Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola and the way their teams win the ball back right away, but Jack had us doing that long ago. International teams liked playing out from the back but they couldn’t do it against us and when we started winning it just bred confidence.

Jack Charlton waves to the fans at at the 1994 World Cup.

Jack Charlton waves to the fans at at the 1994 World Cup. Photograph: Ben Radford/Allsport

Another big part of our success was the camaraderie under Jack. I was fortunate to be part of an Everton team during a very successful period and we had great camaraderie. It was the same at Ireland. You were desperate to join up with the squad because you had such a great time.

Jack let us socialise at the right times while making sure we prepared properly. We were like the people’s team. We’d arrive from our clubs and the lads would meet at a pub. There was good banter and we’d mix with the locals. Then we’d train Monday and Tuesday and play on Wednesday. And have a few pints of Guinness after.

Under Jack we never had closed doors. The public could always wander in for a chat or an autograph. Jack liked that open environment. He never wanted anyone to feel trapped. He just made everyone feel relaxed so that when we went on the pitch the games took care of themselves.

Beating England at Euro 88 was a great moment and I think Jack’s feeling was mostly relief. With his England connections there was so much pressure on him before the game. You knew he was a little more tense than his normal relaxed self and he really enjoyed that victory.

When we came back from Euro 88 we had an open-top bus and great reception but the reaction after we got to the World Cup quarter-finals in 1990 was on a different level. I had one of the highlights of my career when I scored Ireland’s first ever World Cup goal in the 1-1 draw with England in the opening match, and the bus parade in Dublin after tournament was unbelievable. We went down O’Connell Street and there were people as far as you could see.

Jack was loved by everybody and he loved the popularity because he loved people. It wasn’t a big-headed thing. In fact, he was a very humble man. I don’t think I ever heard him mention he’d won the World Cup. He wasn’t one of those managers who tells the players: “I’ve done this, I’ve done that.”

But he had time for everyone. He was always happy to sign autographs or have a chat, he went all over Ireland fishing and he had a huge impact on the country.

Kevin Sheedy won 46 Republic of Ireland caps from 1984-93



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here