Jack and Bobby: A Story of Brothers in Conflict

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9780007336685: Jack and Bobby: A Story of Brothers in Conflict

The history of modern British football can largely be written through the stories of Jack and Bobby Charlton. Both were in the World Cup winning team of '66, and each has remained deeply involved in the game ever since. The book traces the parallel lives of Jack and Bobby Charlton, following them from their schooldays through to the present day. The brothers both played prominent roles in the finest hour of English football, the 1966 World Cup triumph. Each played for the dominant club of their era, and summed up the style of their respective teams. Bobby was at Manchester Utd during their glory days under Sir Matt Busby. He survived the Munich air crash and went on to become a fast, graceful attacker who set grounds alight with his power, speed and athleticism in a team that played free-flowing, attacking football. Jack came to professional football late, working in a coal mine before Leeds signed him. Don Revie's Leeds side was renowned for its uncompromising and physical style, and Jack was himself a tough, durable and aggressive defender, who once caused uproar by admitting he had a 'black book' with a list of footballing enemies who he would target on the pitch. The two retired from football in the same year, and since, the contrast between them has been marked. Bobby's forays into management at Wigan and Preston were distinguished only by their brevity, while 'Big Jack' took the Republic of Ireland team to an unprecendented level of success, reaching the quarter finals of the World Cup in 1994. Bobby has been a key figure in the ongoing success of Manchester United over the past decade, working on recruiting players and as an FA diplomat. But, despite their continued successes, the relationship between the two has been strained, sometimes barely even polite, and the book will investigate the reasons for this, including in-depth interviews with many of those the two have been in contact with over the years.

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Review:

The Charlton brothers hold a unique place in the history of football, thanks not least to their roles in England's 1966 World Cup triumph, but, as journalist Leo McKinstry recounts in his biography Jack and Bobby--A Story of Brothers in Conflict, little has previously been written specifically about the pair and their sometimes volatile relationship.

The public image of the two is firmly established. Younger brother Bobby, the dazzling forward with all the natural ability, who would find a place at the heart of the football establishment as roving ambassador for Manchester United and England. And Jack the lad, the gangling hardman defender; a workhorse, and later, voluble, eccentric club and international manager, who could always be counted on for a quote. But while McKinstry reveals there is much truth behind the stereotypes, there has been tension too, with neither brother entirely comfortable with their ascribed roles.

Such reflections are weaved around a traditional biographical narrative, which follows the brothers from childhood through their respective playing careers with Manchester United, and Leeds, their England glory, managerial successes and failures to their current state of semi-retirement, and digs out some illuminating stuff along the way. Neither of the Charltons was prepared to cooperate with this book--but McKinstry has sought out the perspectives of friends, family and colleagues. The story of Bobby's struggles to find a career after playing, where business success outside of football was matched by managerial failure within it, reveals that a man who had so effortlessly drawn on his own sporting talent was all at sea among the less gifted. And Big Jack, the affable saint steering the Irish team out of obscurity, was a somewhat less cuddly character behind the scenes: according to his players, the boss was prone to very human weaknesses, not least an almost incredible "carefulness" with money, a trait that is the catalyst for some of the book's funniest, and oddest moments.

Such humour, enhanced by McKinstry's eye for the tiny details that betray personality and his ability to draw meaningful characterisations from a blend of familiar facts and fresh anecdotal material, lifts the book out of the ordinary. Jack and Bobby succeeds in offering affectionate but convincing portraits of two of English football's most revered and intriguing characters. --Alex Hankin

Review:

"A Cracking Read" -- The Sunday Times

"Leo McKinstry's excellent new book." -- The Weekend Herald

"McKinstry's great book." -- Maxim Magazine

'...one of the best football books ever written.' -- New Statesman

'a fabulous book...undoubtedly the best ever biography of any United player'. -- Michael Crick

'elegantly written and exhaustively researched' -- Sunday Telegraph

'thoroughly entertaining and ultimately rather uplifting' -- When Saturday Comes

Elegantly written, exhaustively researched...His account of the Munich disaster is written with a restrained power that brought tears to my eyes. -- The Sunday Telegraph

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