President Michael D Higgins pays heartfelt tribute to ‘legendary sporting icon’ Jack Charlton
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President Michael D Higgins pays heartfelt tribute to ‘legendary sporting icon’ Jack Charlton

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has paid tribute to former Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton as a man who "just loved the game". 

Charlton passed away peacefully in his sleep on Friday, aged 85.  

He leaves behind an unrivalled legacy as Ireland manager, having guided the team to a first major tournament at Euro ‘88 as well as successive World Cup qualifications in 1990 and 1994. 

The President of Ireland paid a warm tribute to Charlton following his passing, remembering him as "an icon of a particular period that's very, very important".   

President Higgins reflected on Big Jack’s incredible impact on the sport, helping elevate the status of soccer and the Irish national team during his time in charge. 

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"After the period between '86 and '96 was when Irish people started going abroad with confidence and the Irish supporters acquired a huge reputation for the way they handled both success and defeat,” he told RTE. 

The President recalled several occasions in which their paths crossed, remembering Charlton for his warmth of personality. 

For him, Big Jack’s success stemmed from his man-management of the players and the fact he "just loved the game".  

"There was a perfect continuity between the kind of loyalty he gave in his day to Leeds and the loyalty that he would in turn give the Irish team and through the Irish team, to Ireland and its sports community,” he said. 

President Higgins had earlier paid tribute to Charlton during a statement praising his “legacy of outstanding leadership” with the Irish national side. 

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He said news of Charlton’s had "been received with great sadness by those of us who took him to their hearts as he brought Ireland to some of our most celebrated moments in Irish sporting history". 

"He leaves a legacy of outstanding leadership of a group of players of many diverse talents, which he moulded into the successful team that captured the imagination of the nation. 

"It was not just the success on the field of play, Jack's endearing popularity also had much to do with the warmth and personality of the person who quickly became such a legendary sporting icon." 

R.I.P. Big Jack.