Jack City

Jack of All Trades

Big Jack

Jackie Charlton was Newcastle manager for little more than a year. He had previously had success as manager of Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday and would go on to achieve near sainthood as manager of the Ireland team.

He appeared to be ideally suited for the Newcastle job; he was a local and had the necessary strength of character to deal with the peculiar pressures of sitting in the St. James' hot seat. So what went wrong?

Jack a success?

In 1974/75 Jackie Charlton - in his first season of management - steered Middlesbrough to the First Division title and scooped the manager of the Year award. The following season he resigned after taking Middlesbrough to 6th in the top division.

He returned in October 1977 as manager of Sheffield Wednesday who were languishing in the bottom half of Third Division and took them back to the Second in 1979/80. He left the Hillsborough side at the end of the 1982/83 season whereupon he spent a few months out of the game before returning to Middlesbrough on a temporary basis at the end of the 1983/84 season

Despite his success Charlton's teams were often criticised for their negative tactics and he also had a reputation for being reluctant to spend money (something that had an obvious attraction to the board).

The Prophet of Gloom

After guiding the Keegan inspired Newcastle back to the First Division Arthur Cox dramatically resigned. The fans were up in arms believing that the board forced him out because they wanted someone in charge that they could control. However for one the fans fears appeared to be unfounded. The Newcastle directors decided to approach Jackie Charlton who was currently doing media work but who was making noises that he was prepared to return to management.

Charlton had first been approached for the United job following the resignation of Joe Harvey in 1975. He had just won the Division 2 Championship with Middlesbrough in his first year in charge scooping the Manager of the Year Award. However despite United's use of cousin Jackie Milburn to try and convince him he declined.

Now, Milburn was once more asked to try and convince Jackie and once again Charlton, as he reveals in his autobiography, said no. But this time Milburn kept pressing and Charlton relented albeit without a contract and only with an agreement to take the job for one year.

Milburn was delighted because he (as well as many other fans) felt that only a Geordie could truly identify with the supporters and understand their passion and loyalty of the area.

In his first press conference Charlton was typically blunt and the statements he made on that day were to prove prophetic

Big Jack

Charlton offered little cheer for fans wanting him to bring in new blood. Charlton said that he was "shocked" to learn that the club was 700,000 in debt, but said that it was a situation he had been in before and gloated that when he had left Boro and Wednesday he "left them with money". He also stated that the club had been guilty in the past of "spending money like it was going out of fashion". "I'm someone who spends club money as if it was my own"

There was no better news for the current players who had not signed their contracts: "I don't know what contracts they have got but once I have made up my mind it will be a take-it or leave it situation....loyalty has swopped places with money"

Many people were concerned that Charlton would bring an end to the free flowing football of the promotion season. Charlton replied that "I will do what is necessary and no part of the game will be neglected". Charlton also put a different more ominous slant on his appreciation of the Geordie passion for the game. "I am probably the first manager to understand the Geordie temperament - and I criticise it - they start demanding changes after two bad results".

Finally Charlton made it clear that he would be "out the door" as soon as he found out he was not wanted.

Shown the Door

As well as the retiring Keegan, United had also lost a number of players who had been key to the promotion: John Trewick and David Mills had already been granted free transfers and Terry Mcdermott soon followed them out the door.


Mcdermott had already turned down the offer of a new contract prior to Cox's departure and Charlton wasn't prepared to offer him any more. A meeting with Mcdermott to discuss the situation was over in minutes. Charlton received a lot of criticism over this from the fans and the media and used the match programme to deride Mcdermott's complaints and accuse him of disloyalty "It was Mcdermott who chose not to play for the Newcastle fans he keeps telling everybody he loves so much"

With no new faces added, United were one of the favourites for relegation. But, despite the apparent weakness of the squad, the confidence built up from the promotion season carried forward into the new season and United won there first three matches and stormed to the top of the division. Charlton did not seem totally impressed suggesting that "beer and Skittles" football would not keep them there for long. Charlton's original tactics were based on playing five at the back and having a very defensive midfield with Beardsley and Waddle almost being asked to fend for themselves upfront.

United were soon brought with defeats at Highbury and Old Trafford and the 3 man centre-back system was dispensed with in favour of a more traditional 4-3-3 formation. However, it was the remarkable match at Loftus Road which really upset Charlton and convinced him more drastic surgery was required. United had led 4-0 at half time and 5-3 with 7 minutes to go but ended up sharing a 5-5 draw.

Read about this match here

Couldn't Trap a Medicine Ball

Charlton was determined to change United's style of play. Waddle offers some quotes from Charlton in his autobiography which sum up the Charlton methods well. "I don't want you to play 1-2's on goal, I want you to play 1-2's with God"......"you can't get hurt as long as the ball's up in the clouds".

He would get furious with players who he thought were taking risks, if the team was winning he believed that you should "keep possession, kill time, be negative"

Charlton had initially been in no rush to buy players, wanting to see what he had got first "buy in haste, repent at leisure" as he stated later. But he was now convinced of the need to buy and he promised "we will sign players... but only when I can sign players that will make a real difference"

Charlton decided that the midfield was the major area of weakness and "strengthened" it with his first signing; Pat Heard (a Sheffield Wednesday reserve - in exchange for John Ryan, United also receiving 50,000)."Pat's not a spectacular player, but he will definitely strengthen our team". Ryan has soon fallen foul of Charlton "He likes to play with the ball and I can't afford that with the back four that we have at the moment"

His next "quality" signing was Gary Megson from Nottingham Forest for 110,000. Brian Clough had signed Megson from Sheff Wed only 6 months previously but had refused to play him stating that "he couldn't trap a medicine ball". Charlton stated at the time "that is behind him now and in any case he gets no sympathy for me over it"

By the turn of the year Newcastle had slumped to 18th in the table due to a record of won: 3, drew: 7 and lost: 9 in the 19 matches following their initial hat-trick of wins.

Bo******** of a Lifetime

Charlton was never afraid to publicly criticise his players. He rubbished Kevin Carr on more than one occasion, though he later admitted to feeling a "wee bit guilty" about it.

Peter, obviously However the player he clashed with most was Peter Beardsley. Charlton later described his relationship with Beardsley as "very tindery". Their approach to football was radically different and Charlton made scathing comments about Beardsley in his autobiography "In my experience, he just doesn't listen or if he does he chooses to ignore what you say"

The most famous incident was in the home game against Luton when - with a few minutes to go - and Newcastle leading 1-0 Beardsley set off on one of his mazy runs, but on this occasion gave away possession. Charlton was furious and he marched onto the field to give him "the bollocking of a lifetime". Beardsley claimed he nearly scored, Charlton responded with "you nearly cost us the f****** game"

Jack and Judas

Charlton blamed the departure of Waddle on his introduction into the England squad claiming that after that he "was going through the motions". He also claimed that the local press exacerbated the situation by continually running stories about potential suitors. Certainly Waddles's form dipped in the second half of the season.

In his own autobiography Waddle paints a different picture. He puts his loss of form down to the change in tactics and team formation. Waddle also stated that Charlton was determined to deal personally with his contract negotiations and that the first offer made was "insulting".

As rumours about his imminent departure spread Waddle received a lot of stick from sections of the crowd who saw his actions as disloyal and branded him a Judas

Tony and Mavis

Charlton felt that the combination of Waddle and Beardsley up front was too lightweight. His first attempt was to beef up the attack was to bring in 20 year old Ian Baird on loan from Southampton (5 games and 1 goal). He then tried unsuccessfully to sign George Reilly from Watford but when his approach was rebuffed he went for Tony Cunningham from Man City instead.

Tony and Mavis point the way forward

However within weeks the deal was on again and soon United were playing with two big strikers upfront, with Waddle and Beardsley despatched to the wings. The simple ploy was for the full backs to boot the ball up to the two big men and then for Beardsley and Waddle to "gallop up and down like demented dervishes" (as Pedro describes it in his autobiography) to try and get on the end of the "second ball"

Neither Cunningham nor Rambo (or Mavis as he was later to be known) Reilly were recognised goalscorers and a return of 1 goal in 13 games for Cunningham and 3 in 14 for Reilly were not impressive. Indeed in the 12 games they played in the same team, only 11 goals were scored.

Gone Fishing

In his first programme notes Charlton stated how he "had no hesitation at all in accepting Newcastle's offer ... there was absolutely no chance of me turning down Newcastle United". This does not quite tally with what he states in his autobiography about Milburn having to use "family" pressure to get him to even consider the job.

Willie Maddren, who knew Charlton well expressed surprise when he took the job stating that Charlton had told him weeks earlier that he "did not want the aggravation of a full-time job". He was always very quick to accuse players of a lack of loyalty but steadfastly refused to sign a contract himself

Indeed Charlton's commitment was often questioned and he was clearly riled by the constant assertions that he spent too much time fishing and not enough time at the club. Charlton strenuously denies these allegations but there are too many anecdotes which suggest otherwise. For instance Neil Macdonald revealed that Charlton did not travel down with the team for the first match at Leicester and did not turn up until the pre-match meal

In his autobiography, Waddle states that the "manager always seemed to have many prior commitments which meant that day-to-day control was with (coach) McFaul". Waddle also relates the story of when one day a car drove up while Charlton was taking training and a man got out and told him that there was "trout in the Tweed". Without a moments hesitation Big Jack was off.

Jack Attack

The tactics and new signings paid off to an extent, an improvement in results leading to an eventual 14th position with safety being gained despite conceding a "bloody awful" total of 78 goals (league and cup games combined) However the free-flowing football of the promotion season had been replaced by a much more functional approach. As Beardsley states in his book "I certainly didn't enjoy the way we played, neither did Waddle and I am quite certain the fans didn't like it much either"

None of the four permanent signings made by Charlton had any lasting impact. Heard was dispatched to Middlesbrough for 10,000 in September of the next season following a mere 36 appearances and 2 goals. Megson (Sheffield Wednesday 65,000 following 24(4) appearances and 2 goals) and Reilly (WBA: 150,000 33 appearances, 10 goals) followed him out the door 3 months later. Cunningham survived until August 1987 when he joined Blackpool(25,000, 40(11) appearances, 6 goals)

During pre-season Charlton opened up negotiations with Eric Gates but Charlton thought the terms he was requesting were "over the top". Meanwhile Lawrie McMenemy stepped in and signed him for Sunderland on the day of the final pre-season match against Sheffield United.. The combination of Waddle's departure and this apparent demonstrate of a lack of willingness to spend the money required to get decent players incensed the majority of Newcastle supporters.

Big Jerk

Newcastle played badly in a 1-1 draw and at the final whistle there a section of the crowd made their feelings felt and the brunt of the criticism was aimed at Charlton. Immediately after the match he marched up to the directors room and told Stan Seymour "I'm off" Charlton