My Hero Wednesday Legend No.6: Jack Charlton

My Hero Wednesday Legend No.6: Jack Charlton

Jack Charlton Biog

Big Jack’s time at Hillsborough will always be revered by Owls fans.

In the doldrums in the Old Division Three, Big Jack was appointed in October 1977 with the Owls struggling. He managed to stabilise the club in his first two seasons as the Owls finished 14th two years running.

But what Big Jack gave the club was a heartbeat, a focus and he gave us our passion back. He was a high profile manager and with that came expectation.

In the 1979-1980 season he also gave Wednesday supporters that moment in our history that will always be remembered.

Jack Charlton Terry Curran

The wonderful Terry Curran adds another

That thrashing, yes you know the one, the Boxing Day Massacre. Stuffing our dark cousins from across the city and forever going into folklore.

With United top of the table and Wednesday in 4th place this was gonna be a walkover by the Blades…as we all know, things didn’t quite pan out that way and it could be argued the result changed the fortunes of both clubs. For that one game alone Big Jack is a hero.

In the previous season, of course, he had managed one of the most exciting Owls FA Cup runs with the epic five-game thriller against Arsenal, with Wednesday ultimately losing 2-0 having played them five times in 18 days.

To cap off the 1979/80 season, for the first time in five years the Owls got promoted, finishing 3rd in the league with the Blades never recovering from that hiding and going on to be relegated to the bottom tier the season after.

What an impact Big Jack had!

After promotion Big Jack continued to manage the Owls to greater and greater heights. A solid season in 1980-81 saw the Owls finish 10th but better was to come in 1981-82 as the Owls missed out on promotion to the Old Division One by one point.

Ultimately a poor end to the season saw them fall short with only two wins in the last six games proving costly.

Jack Charlton Ian St John

A pair of Saints

1982-83 proved to be Big Jack’s last season in charge. But he didn’t leave without giving Wednesdayites another season of wonderful memories, ultimately finishing 6th in the league but taking the Owls on two memorable cup runs.

In the League Cup we lost to Arsenal in the 5th round, but in the FA Cup, following a memorable 5-0 quarter final win against Burnley at a packed Hillsborough, he took the Owls to Highbury to face Brighton, where we lost 2-1 – but what a journey to get there.

Big Jack will always be held by all Owls fans in very high esteem, he turned our club round but for one 10-year-old boy he will always be a hero…

The Birthday Boy

My 10th birthday in 1978 became a day that will forever be etched in my mind and a day that enforced my blue and white life forever.

Unbeknown to me, my Mum arranged for me and her to visit Hillsborough on my birthday. It wasn’t a match day; it was a day off school, a normal weekday.

We arrived as requested at 9am on the dot. Greeted by a lady who was explaining that she wasn’t sure what and how much we would see when, and the only way I can describe it is, a very large man to a 10-year-old, performed the most perfect diving header across the length of SWFC reception (in reality he tripped).

That was my first sight of the World Cup legend, the manager of Sheffield Wednesday, Jack Charlton.

I was in awe, gobsmacked, just open-jawed, stood at the side of this gentleman and that’s the only way I can describe him. He was huge, massive and without any airs and graces he introduced himself.

For a young boy to meet the manager of his beloved Owls was just beyond anything I could imagine at the time. He shook my hand, me a little 10 year-old he didn’t know from Adam, and that was it, he instantly became my hero.

It just got better. I can’t remember how but he had been told I would be there, it was my birthday and he just took me under his wing.

We went to his office, I sat in his chair and had a cup of tea with him Maurice Setters, Ian St. John and Tony Toms.  I was just in heaven.

Next to training, from the ground to Middlewood. Again he made sure I was looked after. We went in his blue Ford Cortina the five of us, me next to him in the front seat, hanging onto every word about players and games. I really wish I could remember all the detail.

At the training ground I stood next to him while he watched the players. He didn’t take training, I think the other three did, but boy could he shout. Barking out instructions all the while he’d check I was OK, explaining what was happening and just made a young boy so happy.

Once back at the ground, he presented me with a signed ball and other bits and bobs and signed my autograph book, he made his apologies as he had other meetings to go to.

Jack Charlton Mel Sterland

Jack sings a young ‘Zico’, one of many Wednesday legends he brought to the club

He not only managed my club, he gave it a heartbeat when it desperately needed one.

He led us from the forgotten land on a journey of discovery.

He signed and played legendary Owls players:  Terry Curran, Bob Bolder, Mel Sterland, Ante Mirocevic, Andy McCulloch, Mark Smith, Gary Shelton, Peter Shirtliff, John Pearson….


As I grew up these were the players I watched under my hero Jack Charlton and the players I grew to love.

It still makes me giddy thinking about my 10th birthday.

It was the first time I had met anyone remotely famous, as a football-mad boy. He was a legend, a World Cup winner and what’s more he managed my club.

To every single Wednesday fan he will forever be a legend but to this Wednesdayite he will always be a little bit more….a great man and My Hero.

OWLS ALIVE circliar blue-4 (Midsize)

Owls Alive
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive @cluelesspegg


  1. absoulutely.. what a great man.
    i remember one saturday when 4 of us were on penistone rd, just about to depart by car to mansfield to watch the owls.
    jack drove past us in to the car park, but not before winding down his window and talking to us for 2 minutes.
    imagine our present manager doing that ????

  2. The cup games against Arsenal were the previous season 1978/79.

    A great article all the same.

  3. Great Article about a great manager – he made us feel proud again. I remember 2 stories about him>

    1. A lot of fans had spent a week clearing snow off the pitch at Hillsborough, Jack had taken the players to the Channel Islands for the milder weather. The apprentices (including Mel Sterland) had been left behind to snow clear, they hadn’t been the best behaved and the word was they got such a rollocking from Jack when he got back – they were heads down and at it on the FRiday. But he came down to the ground with John Harris and spent a couple of hours on the pitch talking to fans who were snow clearing.
    2. Me and my mate had been to Shrewsbury for a midweek away game and the coach dropped us in town – we went to wait for the late night bus on High St. The Team coach dropped Tommy Tynan off at the bottom of High St and off he wen up High St. Two minutes later, to our amazement, Jack and Tony Toms appeared and started to talk to us about the match. At the end they asked us where Josephine’s nightclub was, we gave them directions and off they went, presumably to find out if Tommy Tynan was in there!

    Great memories


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *