(Reuters) - Thousands of people poured onto the streets of Ashington, Northumberland to pay tribute to Jack Charlton, England’s 1966 World Cup-winning hero, as his funeral cortege made its way through the north-east town on Tuesday.
The former Ireland manager and towering Leeds United defender, who helped England beat West Germany to become world champions at Wembley Stadium in 1966, died on July 10, aged 85, following a long-term illness.
Many fans paid little heed to social distancing guidelines as they gathered in large numbers to remember Charlton, who led Ireland to their first major soccer finals at the 1988 European Championship and to the World Cup quarter-finals in 1990.
Flags adorned with pictures of Charlton were on display outside houses in the neighbourhood.
Charlton’s brother, Manchester United great Bobby, now 82, who was his team mate in England’s World Cup triumph, was unable to attend the funeral due to ill health.
The cortege stopped outside the Hirst Welfare Centre, where Charlton had polished his soccer skills as a child. It then proceeded to the Newcastle crematorium.
Only 20 relatives were allowed to attend the private service, which included his younger brothers Gordon, 77, and Tommy, 74, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
In a eulogy, grandchildren Emma, Kate and Tom Wilkinson said: “The footballer, the friend, the family man we all knew was forged in Ashington - during a happy childhood with the parents and three brothers he always loved dearly.
“As they whiled away hours kicking a ball around Hirst Park, grandad could never have imagined how remarkable his life would go on to be.”
The grandchildren said Charlton never expected to be called up by England, his first cap coming shortly before he was 30.
Referencing ‘Wor Jack’ dropping to his knees at the end of the World Cup final, the grandchildren said: “Many have often wondered what he was thinking – Was it pure elation? Was it the gravity of the achievement?
“Was it relief that the hopes of a nation had been realised? Well he always told us he was just bloody knackered.”
Reporting by Arvind Sriram and Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris