Michael D Higgins leads birthday tributes to Jack Charlton as iconic Ireland manager turns 85

Michael D Higgins leads birthday tributes to Jack Charlton as iconic Ireland manager turns 85

MICHAEL D Higgins has led the tributes to Ireland’s most successful manager and football legend Jack Charlton who turned 85 today. 

Former players, fellow sports stars and big names from outside the beautiful game were among those to pay tribute to the Charlton who oversaw a golden era in the history of Irish soccer. 

Charlton was appointed Ireland manager in February 1986, going on to guide the Boys in Green to four major international tournaments in the space of just over six years. 

High points included a famous 1-0 over England at Euro ‘88, defeating Romania on penalties to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1990 and a 1-0 victory over eventual World Cup finalists Italy at USA ‘94. 

In a heartfelt letter shared on social media, President Higgins thanked Charlton for his contribution to Irish football. 

"Under your leadership, Irish soccer fans were allowed to dream,” he wrote. 

"For those moments, and for the hope and joy you brought to Irish soccer fans, we will always be grateful. 

"As you celebrate your birthday, in unfamiliar but necessary constraints, may I send you my best wishes for you and your family at half time in your ninth decade". 

Ireland legend Paul McGrath – who famously kept Roberto Baggio quiet during that legendary 1-0 win over Italy – was among those to say happy birthday to Charlton. 

Those sentiments were echoed by John Aldridge, who described Charlton as “the best manager I had by far”, while Andy Townsend wished his old boss a happy birthday while urging him to stay at home and resist the urge to go fishing or off in search of a few well-earned pints. 

Ray Houghton, meanwhile, thanked Charlton for “10 wonderful years” as Ireland boss. 

There were similar heartfelt messages of support from Mick McCarthy, Jason McAteer and Kevin Moran while the FAI shared a video remembering his best moments as Ireland manager. 

Away from football, Irish golf superstar and 2019 Open winner Shane Lowry posted well wishes, while Mrs Brown’s Boys star Brendan O’Carroll shared a poem he penned in tribute to 85-year-old. 

Riverdance star Michael Flatley was also among those to toast Charlton for his efforts and impact on the game.