After all, they were from a close-knit working class family, and added to its remarkable prowess at football by sharing in England's 1966 World Cup victory, falling into a tearful embrace at the final whistle. "We don't live in each other's pockets," Jack would grunt when questions about their relationship were put to him.
Later on it became clear that there was something deeper, something troublesome that both were determined to avoid in conversation. This can happen in families and the discreet thing was to let them get on with it. From time to time people in this trade asked if there was any substance to rumours that the Charltons had grown apart. "Not to my knowledge," I would reply as a small means of protecting their privacy.
It all came into the open last week when the Daily Mail began serialising Jack Charlton's forthcoming autobiography; disaffection, Jack's complaint that Bobby, his late mother's favourite, seldom bothered to visit her or show concern about her failing health. "I'll run my life the way I want to," Bobby is quoted as saying.
A baffling thing is why Jack chose to go public. Was the decision influenced by his publishers or did he simply want to put the record straight? In any case, the romantic perception of the Charltons as footballing brothers in arms has gone for ever.
I know Bobby fairly well but I know Jack better. Over the years we have formed what I like to think of as a friendship which makes the writing of this piece extremely difficult.
Companions one year, long ago, on a coaching course at Lilleshall, we wondered what the future held for us. Jack was revealing an excellent mind for the game, but things at Leeds were not to his liking. Constantly at odds with the training staff who considered his natural stubbornness to be disruptive, his playing career was in limbo. "Don't know what it will lead to, where I'll end up," I remember him saying. All changed when Jack became reconciled with Don Revie, and went on to break through as a considerable international defender.
Importantly, fame didn't change him. Cussed was always the word that sprang quickest to mind in description and cussed he remains. Recalling their days together at Leeds, the former Republic of Ireland international John Giles said: "Jack wasn't always right but he was never wrong," which sums him up perfectly.
To suggest that envy on Jack's part caused the rift with Bobby is absolute nonsense. Even before his own career took off, Jack went around expressing pride in his younger brother's achievements. Later he would say: "When you think about the greatest players in history you have to include 'our kid' among them."
In a book we did together 12 years ago, Bobby told of his journey home after being released from hospital following the awful Munich air disaster in 1958. "When I'd recovered sufficiently to travel by train, Jack met me in London and drove me to Ashington where I was to spend a week or two. He didn't say very much and there were long silences. But I felt very close to him then."
Time did the relationship no favours. "Haven't spoken to him for ages," Jack would say when his brother's name cropped up in passing. "But it's no big deal. Ever since we left home we've gone our separate ways and playing together for England, a terrific thing for our parents, especially our mother, didn't make any difference."
Alf Ramsey was aware of the distance between them, so was Neil Phillips who served as England's medical officer at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico and brought Jack into football management when vice-chairman of Middlesbrough. "I'm very fond of them both, think of them as friends," he said, "but there was always something about their relationship you could never put a finger on."
That Bobby became an establishment figure, a director of Manchester United, and earned a knighthood, does not enter the equation. Fame furthered by the remarkable feats he performed as the Republic of Ireland's manager, Jack has simply followed the course that most suited him. The sad thing is that they are probably beyond reconciliation.Reuse content