Applause rang out for Jack Charlton as thousands of people lined the streets of Ashington in Northumberland to pay tribute to the World Cup-winning hero.
Well-wishers threw flowers on the hearse as it passed slowly through the former mining community where he and his younger brother Sir Bobby honed their football skills.
The procession slowed as it passed close to 114 Beatrice Street, where the Charltons played for countless hours in the back lane, and the park where Big Jack learned the dark arts of defending.
Charlton, a stalwart of Leeds United’s most successful period, an England stopper who reached the pinnacle of the game and later a successful manager most notably with the Republic of Ireland, died earlier this month aged 85.
Fans wearing Leeds shirts, Newcastle United tops, Ireland strips and replica kits from his local side Ashington mingled together, waiting for their chance to pay their final respects.
And when the cortege passed, spontaneous applause and cheers broke out in tribute to the town’s famous son, who never forgot his roots.
Floral tributes in the hearse included a football and a red England shirt with “Jackie 5” on it.
A Northumberland piper led the procession for some of the way through the town.
Charlton was the eldest son of miner Bob and his wife Cissie, who went on to have three more boys.
He followed his father at the pit for a brief spell before leaving Northumberland to join the Leeds United ground staff aged 15.
Charlton stayed there for a remarkable 23 years, a spell broken only by National Service, playing a major part in the club turning from also-rans into a major European force.
He was almost 30 when he made his England debut, but the late developer turned good at just the right time, and was one of the Wembley heroes on that famous day in 1966.
Outside football, Charlton loved his country pursuits and was a keen fisherman.
He remained a hugely popular figure in his retirement, with many fans sharing stories of how he always had time for them when he was out and about in his beloved North East.
Peter Mather, a 68-year-old semi-retired bricklayer, stood with a sign saying “Howay Wor Jack”.
He said: “I never normally wear a cap but I’ve got one on today out of respect to Jack.
“I lived over the road from here and I vividly remember watching the World Cup final.
“At the final whistle, he went to his knees, a big hard man like that showing such emotion.
“I’ll never forget it.”
Irishman Patrick Wilson was stood in the town centre with his family to pay his respects.
The 68-year-old civil engineer, who is originally from Rahugh, Co Westmeath, but now living in Longframlington, Northumberland, said: “We look at him as a humble person, a man for the people.
“He was a simple sort of person with no airs or graces. Everyone was the same in Jack’s eyes.”
Peter Cowans, 64, decorated the outside of his Ashington home with flags in honour of the World Cup winner.
The former policeman said: “He was a lovely fella, not just a football legend, but a real gentleman too.
“I’m pleased the crowds have turned out in their droves – I knew they would.
“He never forgot his roots.”
Leeds United fan Kevin Coe, 51, and his son Ellis, six, were on the route of the funeral procession.
Referring to a 1971 documentary showing Jack Charlton’s home life in Ashington, Mr Coe said: “He just seems to have been a regular guy.
“He was still going out to the clubs, involved in whippet racing.
“It sums up this area.”
Mr Coe, from Rothbury, Northumberland, remembered the keen fisherman spending time on the River Coquet.
Retired nurse Ellie Glenton, a 59-year-old Sunderland fan, said: “Ashington is a place where people are salt of the earth. It’s a nice place to live.
“Jack Charlton sums up being an Ashingtonian.”
Charlton had been diagnosed with lymphoma in the last year and was also battling dementia.
After his death, his family said in a statement: “He was a thoroughly honest, kind, funny and genuine man who always had time for people.
“His loss will leave a huge hole in all our lives but we are thankful for a lifetime of happy memories.”
A private family service was held in Newcastle with a limited number of mourners due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
Published: 21/07/2020 by The Radio Rewind Newsroom