It has been some time since an Englishman on the other side of the world could meet strangers and break the ice, find empathy, mutual understanding and common humanity, with the utterance of two words: Bobby Charlton.
Yet, with his passing, a little piece of England dies, too. He was more than a great footballer and a good man. He was our connection to what we believe was a gentler, nobler time. He was our bridge to loyalty and duty, to modesty and diligence. Sir Bobby Charlton came to represent much of what we thought was the best of us. His excellence on the football field set him apart, but Charlton the man mattered as much. His self-effacing nature, his ordinariness, his bald pate, his unassuming demeanour.
One can only imagine what he would have made of the many thousands of words spilt on his behalf today. At the height of his playing career, a respected writer described him as England’s greatest-ever footballer. Far from revelling in the praise, Charlton had the good grace to appear embarrassed. “Well,” he shrugged, finally, “he’s entitled to his opinion.”
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— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) October 24, 2023