Robin Scott-Elliot: 'Our Bob' delivers his winning formula for the crying game
View From The Sofa: Bobby Charlton, BBC2/Champions League, ITV
Monday 02 May 2011
Ever since Mr Inglis, no relation to the former Aberdeen centre-half John who was briefly Paul Gascoigne's public enemy No 1 alongside non-alcoholic lager, called me to the front of the class and pleaded with me to give up chemistry, I have operated on the fringes of the scientific world. So it is no small achievement to come up with a formula for universal popularity in football, the Upif formula. It is BC minus MC squared = Upif.
In its initial incarnation it was BC=Upif, although I'm not sure that actually counts as a formula. The first draft came about because I believed nobody disliked, or could dislike, Bobby Charlton, "Our Bob" as Jack calls him, a genuinely iconic figure at Manchester United and across world football, and to the distant admirer a genuinely good man with an abiding passion for his club and his sport. "Everybody loves him in the whole world," said Franz Beckenbauer, before getting out a felt-tip pen and drawing all over a picture of "that" goal in 1966 to prove it wasn't over the line.
Then I spoke to a Manchester City fan, which is where MC comes in. Luckily the noisy neighbours (no doubt City hold barbecues that go on late into the night on bank holidays as Mario Balotelli gets his guitar out and Carlos Tevez sings haunting melodies about the harsh, lonely life of the gaucho) played no part in this warm, enjoyable and often emotional ramble through Charlton's life as a footballer. There were lots of tears and not only over memories of Munich – the slightly ghoulish (which by the way is how Jack sounds when talking about goals) close-up on his face when it came to talking about the disaster was the only grating moment. It seemed too much of an intrusion.
That was also the only point when Charlton seemed like an old man. In contrast the years dropped off him when he talked about the goals he had scored, but the tears kept coming. "I only cried when we won," said Charlton, and he, United and England won lots of games.
At one point he stood outside Old Trafford and spoke of how Matt Busby used to instruct his players why they had always had a duty to entertain those who paid to come and watch. A night earlier we had seen one of today's great entertainers, but the difference between what Charlton was talking about and what Jose Mourinho is, is vast. Whether Charlton will have any influence on Sir Alex Ferguson's successor at Old Trafford I have no idea but everything he said in this programme was a reason not to appoint Mourinho. If the Portuguese can take Real Madrid, one of the world's richest, and greatest, clubs with one of the world's greatest attacking talents in his ranks, and do what he did with them last Wednesday, then anyone connected with the red half of Manchester should want nothing to do with him.
Unfortunately this sanctimony falls down quicker than a mortally wounded Barcelona player because I can't wait for tomorrow's second leg (and also because there is no more sanctimonious figure in the game than Mourinho himself).
His teams may not entertain like Charlton's did, but he, Mourinho, does. The best shots last Wednesday – apart from ITV's excellent post-match analysis – were of Mourinho gurning in the stands. Today there is a demand for footballers and managers to do more than simply entertain on the pitch and Mourinho gets that more than anyone, and that suits him more than anyone.
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