Huge send-off for English and Irish hero Jack Charlton

Ashington (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Thousands lined the streets on Tuesday to pay their respects to the late Jack Charlton, who won the World Cup with England in 1966 before becoming a national hero as a manager across the Irish Sea.

Crowds thronged the former mining town of Ashington, in northeast England, where Charlton grew up and maintained strong ties until his death earlier this month at the age of 85.

Well-wishers also gathered in Ballina, in the west of Ireland, to bid farewell to the man who transformed the national side's fortunes, taking them to their first two World Cup finals.

People in the town painted a mural of Charlton, who used to fish nearby, holding a pint of Guinness and there is a proposal to name a footbridge after him.

The funeral cortege of a hearse -- which was preceded by a pall-bearer and a Northumberland piper -- and three cars holding mourners drove through the streets of Ashington before leaving for a private service at a crematorium.

A floral tribute from Jack's younger brother Bobby, 82, who was in the 1966 World Cup-winning team alongside Jack, was placed next to the coffin.

The family said Bobby was not well enough to attend the service.

- 'Legend' -

The cortege was greeted with a round of applause by a partly masked crowd, with some mourners wiping away tears.

"The word legend can be overused but certainly not in this case," said an Ashington Football Club spokesman.

"Always happy to help in the town, visit schools and community events when asked. A giant who will be sorely missed."

His coffin was draped with three scarves -- those of England, Ireland and Leeds United -- the only club he played for.

Peter Mather, a 68-year-old semi-retired bricklayer, stood on the funeral route with a sign saying "Howay Wor Jack".

"I never normally wear a cap but I've got one on today out of respect to Jack," he said, referring to Charlton's habit of wearing a flat cap.

"I lived over the road from here and I vividly remember watching the World Cup final.

"At the final whistle, he went to his knees, a big hard man like that showing such emotion. I'll never forget it."

Irishman Patrick Wilson made the 25-minute journey with his family from a nearby town to Ashington.

"We look at him as a humble person, a man for the people," said the 68-year-old civil engineer.

"Jack set football off in Ireland. We used to call it soccer. He was a simple sort of person with no airs or graces. Everyone was the same in Jack's eyes."