David Beckham leads tributes to ‘national hero’ Sir Bobby Charlton

Beckham came through the ranks at Manchester United having attended Sir Bobby Charlton’s Soccer School

Pa Sport Staff
Sunday 22 October 2023 09:17 BST
David Beckham pays tribute to Bobby Charlton: 'I owe everything to Sir Bobby'

Former England captain David Beckham praised “national hero” Sir Bobby Charlton as tributes poured in following his death.

Charlton’s family announced in a statement on Saturday that the ex-Manchester United player, who was a key member of England’s 1966 World Cup success, had died at the aged 86.

Beckham came through the ranks at Manchester United having attended Bobby Charlton’s Soccer School and was given the middle name Robert as his father was such a fan of the 1968 European Cup winner.

“It all began with Sir Bobby. Sir Bobby was the reason I had the opportunity to play for Manchester United… I will be forever grateful to a man I was named after, someone I looked up to and was a hero to many around the world not just in Manchester and our country where he won the World Cup in 1966,” Beckham posted on Instagram.

“A true gentleman, family man and truly a national hero… Today isn’t just a sad day for Manchester United & England it’s a sad day for football and everything that Sir Bobby represented… Our thoughts go out to Lady Norma, their daughters and grandchildren x Rest in Peace Sir Bobby x @manchesterunited @england Today our hearts are heavy.”

Charlton made his debut for United in 1956 and went on to play 758 matches for the Red Devils, scoring 249 goals. Both were long-standing club records until they were overtaken by Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney, respectively.

Charlton won three league three titles and one FA Cup at Old Trafford and, after leaving United in 1973 and becoming Preston manager, he returned to Old Trafford 11 years later as a club director. He was knighted for services to football in 1994.

The statement continued: “His unparalleled record of achievement, character and service will be forever etched in the history of Manchester United and English football; and his legacy will live on through the life-changing work of the Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation.

David Beckham praised the impact the late Sir Bobby Charlton had on his career. (Steve Paston/PA)

“The club’s heartfelt sympathies are with his wife Lady Norma, his daughters and grandchildren, and all who loved him.”

United manager Erik ten Hag described Charlton as “a legend” and “a giant” as he paid his own tribute after his side’s 2-1 win at Sheffield United on Saturday night.

A wreath was put in the centre circle as a minute’s applause was held before kick-off while another wreath was laid at the base of the statue of Charlton, George Best and Denis Law in front of Old Trafford.

“His achievements are so immense and huge – global, not only England,” Ten Hag said.

“You see the facts he achieved are incredible. All the games, his titles, his trophies, the contribution he had with his goals.

“I never had the honour to meet him, but I heard, despite all his trophies and games, he was so humble. A big personality and an example for all of us as a footballer and also in society.”

Sir Bobby Charlton has died aged 86 (Danny Lawson/PA)

Charlton’s European Cup success at United came 10 years after the Munich air disaster, which he and team manager Sir Matt Busby survived but which claimed the lives of eight of Charlton’s team-mates.

Born in Ashington on October 11 1937, Charlton played in the World Cup final alongside his brother Jack, who died aged 85 in 2020, and won 106 caps for England, scoring 49 goals.

The official England account on X, formerly known as Twitter, wrote: “It is with a heavy heart that we have learned of the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton.

“An integral part of our 1966 FIFA World Cup winning campaign, Sir Bobby won 106 caps and scored 49 times for the #ThreeLions.

“A true legend of our game. We will never forget you, Sir Bobby.”

Prince William, president of the Football Association, paid tribute to Charlton on social media.

Writing on the official account of The Prince and Princess of Wales, William said: “Sir Bobby Charlton. First Division Champion. European Champion. World Champion. Gentleman. Legend. A true great who will be remembered forever. Thank you Sir Bobby. W.”

England manager Gareth Southgate added: “One of our most iconic players, Sir Bobby Charlton’s impact on our only World Cup triumph is there for all to see.

“The privilege of meeting him on several occasions allowed me to understand his personal pride and emotion in having represented England and simply confirmed in my mind his standing as one of the gentlemen of the game.

“The world of football will unite in its sadness at losing an undisputed legend.”

United are opening a book of condolence in the International Suite at Old Trafford from 10am on Sunday, while England will pay a full tribute to Charlton at the European Championship qualifier against Malta at Wembley on November 17.

Charlton made his England debut against Scotland at Hampden Park in April 1958, just over two months after he had survived the Munich air disaster.

He was not selected for England’s 1958 World Cup squad that summer, but played at the tournament in 1962, 1966 and 1970.

Charlton scored three times at the 1966 World Cup, including both goals in the 2-1 semi-final victory over Portugal, and ended his England career at the age of 32 following the quarter-final exit to West Germany in 1970.

Wayne Rooney broke Charlton’s scoring records for both Manchester United and England and heard the news during the Sky Bet Championship match between Middlesbrough and Birmingham at the Riverside.

Birmingham boss Rooney said: “As I came out for the second half, I didn’t know what was happening. I see his image on the big screen and it hit me what had happened.

“Bobby was always great with me, we had many conversations about football and life. He is a huge inspiration not just to me but to a lot of players who have played for Manchester United.

“He was the first to congratulate me when I broke the record at Stoke. He came in after the game with his wife. He said congratulations – and a few more harsh words, jokingly.

“He was a top human being, which is more important.”

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