The following article is reproduced with the kind permission of John White, Branch Secretary of the Carryduff Manchester United Supporters Club. You can visit their Facebook page at





Sir Bobby Charlton coined the phrase “The Theatre of Dreams,” when he was asked what Old Trafford meant to him.

“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty,” (Zig Ziglar).

Bobby Charlton epitomised everything that was good about a professional footballer. He had a very successful career with Manchester United winning 3 First Division Championships (1956-57, 1964-5 & 1966-67), 1 FA Cup (1963), 4 Charity Shields (1956, 1957, 1965 & 1967), the European Cup (1968) and 3 FA Youth Cup winners’ medals (1954, 1955 & 1956). In 1966, he was voted the Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year award and he also collected European Player of the Year award (Ballon d’Or, finished second in 1967 & 1968).

Bobby was capped 106 times by England (1958-70), winning the 1966 Fifa World Cup alongside his brother and United teammate Nobby Stiles (United’s John Connelly was also in the England squad), and scored a record 49 times for his country which was subsequently passed by another United legend, Wayne Rooney, who netted 53 times in his 120 internationals (2003-18). He won the British Home International Championships 10 times (1958-61, 1964-66 & 1968-70). At the 1966 World Cup finals he won the FIFA Golden Ball, an award presented to the best player at each FIFA World Cup finals.

Bobby Charlton was an honest professional with immense character on and off the pitch, a footballer who was respected by everyone, and whose integrity was never questioned. He was never sent off in his professional career which spanned a quarter of a century, 1956-80. However, he was shown a yellow card once but this was later rescinded when the referee apologised to him. Charlton loved United, he joined them as a trainee on 1 October 1953, the day of his 16th birthday, signed as a professional on his 17th birthday and stayed loyal to the club spending 20 years at Old Trafford before leaving on 28 April 1973.

He made his debut for Manchester United on 6 October 1956 at centre forward and impressed his manager, Matt Busby, scoring twice in a 4-2 First Division home win over Charlton Athletic just five days before he celebrated his 19th birthday. Johnny Berry and a player who Charlton would go on to challenge for a starting position in the team, Liam “Billy” Whelan, also scored in the game. On 23 March 1957, Bobby Charlton scored on his FA Cup debut for Manchester United. The Reds beat Birmingham City 2-0 at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield with Johnny Berry also scoring, to set up a final versus Aston Villa, who were ironically close city rivals of Birmingham City.

Charlton played against Red Star Belgrade in the European Cup quarter-final, second leg tie in Belgrade on 5 February 1958. When the team were flying home from the Yugoslav capital the next day the plane had to stop off in Munich, West Germany to refuel. Bobby survived the 1958 Munich Air Disaster which cruelly claimed the young lives of eight of his fellow Busby Babes, including David Pegg and Tommy Taylor, with whom Bobby and Dennis Viollet swapped seats with prior to the third and final fatal take-off attempt. He suffered cuts to his head and severe shock and was in hospital for a week.

Charlton’s loyalty to United was rewarded with a lucrative Testimonial on 18 September 1972 when Manchester United welcomed Glasgow Celtic to Old Trafford. One of the songs being played over the tannoy system to entertain the fans before the game was the No.1 single in the UK charts, “You Wear It Well” by Rod Stewart. “You wear it well. A little old fashioned but that’s all right.” Approaching his 35th birthday, Bobby Charlton most certainly was wearing well.

The admission price to see this Battle of Britain encounter ranged from 45p to 90p and the match programme cost 15p. The 1967 European Cup winners and runners-up to Feyenoord in the 1970 final, Glasgow Celtic, and United, the team which took over The Hoops’ (Celtic’s nickname) mantle as “Best Team in Europe,” the following year drew 0-0 before a record crowd for a Testimonial, 60,538. This record stood for 29 years until Ryan Giggs’ Testimonial attracted a crowd of 67,500 to see United lose 4-3 to Celtic on 1 August 2001.

It was a fitting tribute to the Busby Babe who had served Manchester United loyally since making his debut aged 18. The Testimonial game was played on a Monday evening and earlier that day Piccadilly was a sea of green and white as some 10,000 Celtic fans came down from Scotland to cheer on the famous Lisbon Lions. The bars and clubs were jam-packed with United and Celtic fans hanging out of every door. Different Irish accents could be heard among the travelling Celtic army. However, the game was nearly called off at the last minute. When some United fans began chanting for Glasgow Rangers before the match, the Celtic fans responded and surged towards the Stretford End. Had there not been a huge fence separating the warring factions, things would have turned out really nasty. Both sets of fans were pushing the fence from opposite sides, but thankfully it stood firm. Fortunately, Jock Stein, the Celtic manager, saw what was happening and he urged his supporters back to their places, and further trouble was averted.

During the game, every touch by Charlton, who was wearing the famous United No.9 jersey, was cheered and even the Celtic fans urged him to score. He may have been 35 years old at the time, but he was most certainly United’s best player on the night. Wyn Davies made his United debut in the game following his £60,000 transfer from Manchester City on 14 September 1972. A future United star, Lou Macari, was wearing the famous green and white hooped shirt whilst the best player on the pitch was the majestic Kenny Dalglish. At the banquet held after the game, Prime Minister Harold Wilson told Celtic’s John “Dixie” Deans that he recommended him to Huddersfield Town when Dixie was a Motherwell player (1965-71).

Glasgow Herald Tuesday 19 September 1972

Absorbing benefit for Bobby Charlton despite goal famine.

A crowd of 60,538, a British record for a benefit match, packed Old Trafford last night to see Manchester United and Celtic fight out an absorbing goalless draw in Bobby Charlton’s testimonial match.

From the onset it was apparent that this was to be no goal-happy fiesta. That would have been unworthy of the occasion, the dignity of the two great clubs, and the man they had come to honour. If the crowd, which included Tommy Docherty, Sir Alf Ramsey and stars from the past and present were not treated to a Charlton special they were able to enjoy a fine game of pure football.

After only three minutes Celtic were awarded a free kick a yard outside the penalty area. Murdoch’s left foot drive cannoned off the defensive wall and from the rebound McNeill volleyed in a blistering shot which Stepney punched away at the near post.

 Four minutes later Dalglish bewildered United’s defence, sending Deans away down the right. The centre forward’s immediate pass into the middle found Johnstone but the winger’s shot hit the outside of the netting.

 Having weathered the early onslaught, Manchester United countered through Kidd, who first forced Williams to a good save then sliced a perfect pass through a square-standing Celtic defence to Law, who revelling in the big occasion, slid his shot wide as he fell. Charlton caused a hum of embarrassment in the crowd with one appallingly wild crossfield pass but redeemed himself when he accepted a ball from Law and advanced threateningly on the Celtic goal. His final shot lacked power however, as defenders converged on him.

 This was a refreshing, tension-free performance from United, quite divorced from their recent games. Another flowing move sent Charlton away and this time he was able to set himself before unleashing an effort that went over the crossbar.

The goal from Charlton which most of the crowd was willing for him, was not to come and it was Celtic who now were beginning to control the game with the mighty Murdoch dominating the middle of the field.

 Hood replaced Johnstone at the start of the second half and later Wilson came on for Deans. Kidd limped off injured and Law also withdrew, McIlroy and Sartori taking their places.

 With 10 minutes remaining Celtic began to overrun a tiring United defence and twice Macari had opportunities to win the match. A delightful exchange with Dalglish left United’s defence in tatters, but Macari somehow scooped his shot wide. Then he failed to turn on to a loose ball as it rolled temptingly across the face of an open goal.

 All that remained was for Bobby Charlton to do his lap of honour, surrounded by hundreds of youthful enthusiasts to whom he has given so much pleasure over the years.


Manchester United

Stepney, Donald, Dunne, Young, James, Buchan, Morgan, Law, Charlton, Davies, Kidd

Manager: Frank O’Farrell

Glasgow Celtic

Williams, McGrain, McCluskey, Murdoch, McNeill, Connelly, Johnstone, Dalglish, Deans, Macari, Callaghan.

Subs – Davidson, Hood, Lennox.

Manager: Jock Stein

Referee: C. Thomas

Attendance: 60,538

 Season 1972-73 was also the first and only time United participated in the Anglo Italian Cup: 1-1 at home with Fiorentina, 0-0 away with SS Lazio, 3-1 at home to AS Bari and a 4-1 away win over Verona. The latter game played on 2 May 1973, marked Bobby Charlton’s last ever appearance for the club and he signed off just as he did when he made his debut on 6 October 1956, by scoring twice.

On 15 December 1972, a new TV series was first shown on BBC1 called “The Record Breakers.” When Bobby Charlton left Manchester United he held a number of club records including number of appearances and goals scored. Bobby’s United record was going to be hard to surpass:

• 604 (2 as sub) First Division games – 199 goals
• 78 FA Cup games – 19 goals
• 24 League Cup games – 7 goals
• 28 European Cup games – 10 goals
• 6 European Cup Winners’ Cup games – 4 goals
• 11 UEFA Cup games – 8 goals
• Other Matches 5 – 2 goals
• Total, 758 games (includes 2 as a substitute) – 249 goals.

 Bobby joined Preston North End in the summer of 1973 where he spent two years as their player-manager and was still banging the goals in despite being 37-years old. In 1976, he joined Waterford United in the League of Ireland (3 games, 1 goal), played one game for Newcastle KB United in Australia in 1978, 3 games for Perth Azzurri, Australia (1 goal) in 1980 and that same year he played for his third Australian side, Blacktown City scoring a goal in his one and only appearance for them.

In January 2011, Bobby was voted the fourth greatest Manchester United player of all time by the readers of Inside United and, behind Ryan Giggs (who topped the poll), Eric Cantona and The Belfast Boy, George Best and on 15 February 2016, Manchester United announced the South Stand of Old Trafford would be renamed in honour of Sir Bobby Charlton. The unveiling took place at the home game against Everton on 3 April 2016. In October 2017, he had a pitch named in his honour at St George’s Park, the English Football Association’s national football centre.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” (John Maxwell). Sir Bobby Charlton was a leader.


Did You Know That?

Bobby Charlton made one appearance for Glasgow Celtic during his career. Bobby was in charge of Preston North End at the time and was preparing for a comeback. On 13 May 1974, Celtic were in England to play Liverpool at Anfield for Ron Yeats’ Testimonial Match. So Charlton asked Jock Stein if he could play as a guest in the game in a bid to retain his fitness and Big Jock agreed. Celtic won the game 4-1 and Charlton, aged 36, was among the goal scorers.