The grandchildren of World Cup winner Jack Charlton have paid tribute to “a proud Englishman, a proud northerner and a proud honorary Irishman” at his funeral service.
The eulogy to the football great came at a private family service which followed remarkable scenes in his home town of Ashington, Northumberland, where thousands lined the streets to pay respect to “Wor Jack”.
Sadly, the family said Sir Bobby was not well enough to attend the service at Newcastle Crematorium.
In their tribute, grandchildren Emma, Kate and Tom Wilkinson said: “The footballer, the friend, the family man we all knew was forged in Ashington – during a happy childhood with the parents and three brothers he always loved dearly.
“As they whiled away hours kicking a ball around Hirst Park, Grandad could never have imagined how remarkable his life would go on to be.”
They spoke of his record-breaking career with Leeds United, his time coinciding with the West Yorkshire side’s most successful years.
Their eulogy continued: “And on that famous day in July 1966, as the final whistle blew on English football’s most historic moment, he dropped to his knees, head in hands.
“Many have often wondered what he was thinking – was it pure elation? Was it the gravity of the achievement?
“Was it relief that the hopes of a nation had been realised? Well he always told us he was just bloody knackered.”
His grandchildren said: “Ireland was a great fit for Grandad, the people, the ‘craic’, the salmon fishing, the Guinness – and a bit of football thrown in.
“We’ve been overwhelmed with kind messages from Ireland – one that really stuck out said Grandad ‘did the near-impossible and transcended politics – some called him the English Irishman, but why reference the divides and mountains he so affably rose above? Simply, he was both a man and the man’.”
They added: “His achievements in England and Ireland brought him great recognition, but he always had his feet firmly on the ground – in fact he found fame endearingly novel and he would have been really chuffed with all the nice things people have been saying about him in the past week or so.
The family was touched by many kind messages they have received from fans, saying: “It’s clear that the many fleeting moments of kindness he showed to strangers had a lasting impact, and we’re extremely proud to be able to say that the man everyone met is the man we knew.
“A man who struck the balance so perfectly between football icon, fan favourite and loving family man.”
After the service, the family added: “We’d like to thank people who turned out on the streets of Ashington, we were all overwhelmed and he would have been thrilled by the outpouring of kindness.”
Jack’s younger brother Tom, who followed the cortege with wife Carol, added: “We can personally say that we have never been so proud to be Geordies, so proud to come from Ashington and so proud of the people of Ashington.
“We were carried away by the feelings shown by the hundreds who clapped and cheered our Jack as he passed by.”
Charlton died earlier this month aged 85.