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13 November 2023

Manchester and wider football world say final goodbyes to Sir Bobby Charlton

13 November 2023

Manchester and the wider football world came together to say their final goodbyes to Sir Bobby Charlton on Monday.

Fans flocked to Old Trafford and to Manchester Cathedral for a public funeral service to remember Charlton, who died aged 86 last month.

The service was attended by United stars past and present, other football dignitaries and even the Prince of Wales.

Charlton will be remembered as arguably the greatest English footballer of all time, a World Cup winner in 1966 with his country and a winner of three league titles, an FA Cup and a European Cup with Manchester United in 1968.

However, the eulogies read at his funeral service at Manchester Cathedral all highlighted how family came first for Charlton.

His grandson William Balderston read the last of the tributes and recalled a “creative, fantastic storyteller” who would make up what he called “jelly and custard” tales to entertain and enthral his younger relatives.

He spoke of his “depth of gratitude” to Charlton and his wife Norma, adding: “They have shown me what devotion really is.”

Former Manchester United chief executive David Gill, who read the first eulogy, described Charlton as a “legend, an icon and a very dear and loyal, much-loved colleague and friend”.

“Football is a tribal sport but Bobby was universally admired,” Gill said.

Gill reeled off some of Charlton’s astonishing career statistics – 758 United appearances, 249 goals, 106 England caps, 49 goals – but added: “The stat I really like is only two bookings and never being sent off.

“Now I know Bobby didn’t have to endure VAR, a curse of the modern game – I’m not sure he was a big fan – but to me that says it all.

“You can be a superstar and a fierce competitor, whilst still being a gentleman. Bobby’s name is synonymous with all that is good about the English game.”

Thousands of fans lined the apron of Old Trafford to pay their respects as Charlton’s funeral cortege drove past.

Many hundreds more gathered outside the Cathedral with more than 1,000 guests coming to pay their respects.

There were team-mates from Charlton’s own glory days – Alex Stepney, Paddy Crerand and Brian Kidd – with the guest list reading like a who’s who of United’s history for the last six decades.

From the current squad, Harry Maguire, Tom Heaton, Jonny Evans and Luke Shaw were in attendance, while from beyond the club, the Prince of Wales – the president of the Football Association – led a delegation from the governing body which also included current England manager Gareth Southgate.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin’s presence marked the international impact Charlton had, even in the days before blanket television coverage of football existed.

“On away trips, there was not an airport concourse in the world that Bobby could walk through without people wanting an autograph or selfie,” Gill recalled.

“I would head on through to get the bags and Bobby would join me 10 or 15 minutes later having satisfied everyone.”

The funeral service began with that famous FA Cup anthem, Abide With Me, and also featured a rendition of ‘How Great Thou Art’ by opera singer Russell Watson.

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