Jack Charlton’s little black book

When Jack Charlton admitted to having a little black book during a television interview in 1970, viewers perhaps wondered if they were about to be made privy to some scandalous secrets by the seemingly happily married World Cup winner. But instead of providing juicy stories for the gossip pages, Charlton’s disclosure ended up sparking a scandal that would dominate the back pages for weeks, as journalists and officials tumbled over one another in self righteously denouncing the tough as nails veteran defender.

Jack Charlton in action during the 1966 World Cup final

Charlton had made it clear that his little black book did not contain women’s telephone numbers, but names of players that we would do on the field if he got the chance because they had committed bad fouls on him. Charlton really hadn’t said much wrong. He had explicitly denounced bad or nasty fouls. It did not lessen the media frenzy that followed. “These sickening comments,” ran a headline in the Daily Express, above an article that called on Leeds to sack Charlton. Even Bobby Charlton was trotted out to denounce his older brother. The Football Association dutifully charged the man with 35 caps to his name with bringing the game into disrepute.

Jack Charlton clears a ball for Leeds

What undoubtedly did not help was that Charlton was a part of the Leeds United that had earned a reputation for nasty play. This was the ‘Dirty Leeds’ who were told by Brian Clough, when he became their manager in 1974, that the the trophies they had won in the years previous did not count because they had been won by cheating. However in no conceivable way could Jack Charlton be construed as anything near the worst offender of that team. Quite the opposite in fact, the veteran defender was more the hard but fair type who took it as hard as he gave it, and was held in high esteem by his colleagues.

The whole affair came to nothing in the end. Upon a viewing of the actual interview the FA decided not to pursue any fine or suspension. Charlton would only have to issue an apology. The thirty-five year old did so in the form of a not so subtle dig at the people that had whipped up what became known as the Jack Charlton Affair: “I apologise for the fact that through me, the press was given an opportunity to knock football.”