Jack Charlton (left) presents brother Bobby with a liftetime achievement award. Alamy Stock Photo

Bobby's passing allows Charlton brothers be reunited with earliest love

Jack and Bobby will always remain two great champions; contrasting in stature but giants of a game they loved, and inspired others to love too.

THERE WAS A nice image suggested by Mark Lawrenson speaking on Off The Ball yesterday afternoon.

The former Preston and Ireland defender was paying tribute to Bobby Charlton in the moments after the Manchester United and England great’s death was announced at the age of 86.

Lawrenson played under him during his time as manager at Deepdale in the early 1970s and also under his older brother Jack with the international team.

He remembered them as polar opposite characters with a shared love of football.

“Maybe they’re having a little bit of two-touch up there, if there is such a place,” Lawrenson said.

Brothers reunited in death and, perhaps, by football once again.

They have passed on within three years of each other, both suffering from dementia in their final years. Part of the disease’s cruelty is in what it takes from those who must endure its effects while still living.

They may have had a complicated relationship for some of their adult lives, but the thought of them being able to enjoy the simple, easy joy of playing football together once again was jolting.

tributes-are-laid-in-memory-of-sir-bobby-charlton-by-the-united-trinity-statue-at-old-trafford-manchester-sir-bobby-charlton-has-died-aged-86-his-family-announced-yesterday-picture-date-sunday-oc Tributes have started to be paid to Bobby Charlton outside Old Trafford. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

There felt a pureness to it, along that same theme which Jack struck upon when presenting his younger brother with a lifetime achievement award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony in 2008.

“When we were kids and we used to go to the park and play, I would go home for dinner and he would stay on all day,” Jack began. “Bobby Charlton is the greatest player I’ve ever seen. He’s my brother.”

Poignant, beautiful words.

Bobby is an icon of the game and symbol of Manchester United, but a connection can be found for any football fan.

Not just because of the resilience and courage to find a way to continue with his life – and career – following the Munich Air Disaster in 1958, but because of that love of the game which never wavered. He might never have been able to do what he did afterwards without it.

His talent and ability were otherworldly; his passion entrenched and resolute like so many who loved to watch him play.

It was evident again in a clip from the penalty shootout between United and Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final in Moscow.

Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar saves the spot kick from Nicolas Anelka that makes the Old Trafford club European champions for the third time.

Charlton lifted that same trophy for the club’s first triumph at Wembley in 1968 – two years after doing the same when he inspired England to win the World Cup – and was also present for that incredible night in Barcelona as Alex Ferguson completed the Treble.

In Russia, Bobby’s reaction was instant. The Busby Babe was 70 now but leapt from his seat to celebrate with the same verve as he did 40 years previously to meet Dave Sadler’s cross with that famous headed goal against Benfica.

Giddy, joyful, ecstatic.

It was a moment and type of happiness only someone still in love with the game could enjoy.

Given how it left him heartbroken in Munich, robbing him of friends and a different kind of future, holding onto such precious feelings is all the more incredible.

Jack and Bobby will always remain two great champions; contrasting in stature but giants of a game they loved, and inspired others to love too.

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