When Bobby came to town

Following the death of Manchester Utd legend Bobby Charlton on Saturday, pictures began to pop up on social media of the English midfielder in Dundalk down through the years. His first visit to the town was in September 1973 just a few months after he had played his final game for his beloved Manchester Utd. He had recently been made player manager at Preston North End and he brought his new team to Oriel Park for a pre-season friendly.
Jim Malone was Dundalk chairman at the time and according to Jim’s son Paddy his father spent hours trying to convince Bobby to play five minutes to help boost ticket sales for the game against Dundalk.
“I can remember my Dad begging Bobby to play a few minutes so that we could tell supporters that the legendary Bobby Charlton was playing, which would almost ensure we’d have a full house in Oriel. Bobby, however, said he couldn’t do it as he had only ever played for Manchester Utd up to that point in his life and he wasn’t ready to put on another shirt. I think the game took place just before Jim McLaughlin came into the club so it was John Smith who was the manager at the time,” recalls Paddy.
“There was a reception for him in the Imperial after the game as far as I remember and I can vividly remember having to lodge the takings for the game into the bank that evening for Dad. I was about eighteen at the time and I can remember the buzz locally from youngsters around the town seeing their hero in the flesh. Unfortunately, management didn’t work out for Bobby with Preston relegated that year while his brother Jack actually got Middlesboro promoted to Division 1 that same season. Bobby’s first love was always Manchester Utd and he would later join the board and continue his lifetime’s association with the club right up until his death,” explained Paddy.
Bobby would return to Dundalk in August 1988 via his popular Bobby Charlton’s Soccer School which he had brought all over the UK and Ireland. Charlton had set up the school in 1976 and over the years he had unearthed a number of players who would go on to have fine careers in the game, none more so than ex England captain David Beckham.
Des Dunleavy had helped bring the soccer school to Dundalk for a couple of days with the event sponsored by TSB. Brian McGuinness who was fourteen when Bobby first came to Dundalk in 1973 got his autograph that night in the town hall and he was involved with Seatown FC in 1988 when Bobby’s soccer school came to Dundalk.
“We were involved with Seatown in the Dundalk Schoolboys League and we brought a number of the boys up to the college grounds in the old RTC (Now DkIT) where Bobby was holding his soccer school. We were more excited than the kids to see Bobby as we could remember how great that Manchester Utd team was. Every kid in the playground was pretending to be either Bobby Charlton, Denis Law or George Best. We used to have a newsletter with Seatown FC where we would document all our matches and take pictures and we would get it printed up with Liam Gaynor in Dún Dealgan Press. So I would have taken a few pictures of Bobby for our newsletter when he came in 88, and when he died over the weekend I dug up some old pics I had and posted them up on social media which helped bring back memories for a lot of people around town.
“I can still remember the excitement when I first met him in 1973. I was working as a paperboy for Tempest in Crowe St and Preston had played Dundalk in a friendly that day with Bobby managing them. I had heard he was in the town hall and my old boss, Helena McCann, got an autograph book off the shelf and told me to run over and ask him for an autograph. He couldn’t have been nicer and I still have that autograph book with his signature inside to this day. He was such a hero to me and many more people of my generation,” stated Brian.

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