'Lovely moment' Moving new Jack Charlton film shows him recognising Paul McGrath despite dementia
"Paul had sent a little hello to Jack that we played to him and he just straight away turned to the camera. It was great"
He struggled with a form of dementia that cruelly left him unable to remember many of his own precious Ireland memories and glory days.
But when Jack Charlton spots one of our greatest ever players on a home video, his face breaks into that unmistakable grin as he turns to the camera and beams: "Paul McGrath".
The magical moment is captured in a terrific new documentary about the former Republic of Ireland manager. Finding Jack Charlton recalls the team's monumental campaigns in Germany, Italy and the USA, but also offers an intimate account of his struggles with dementia in the final year of his life.
"It was a really lovely moment, Jack's smile to the camera. At the time, it felt very powerful, so I hope it connects with people because it did feel like a beautiful moment," said Pete Thomas, who co-directed the film with Gabriel Clarke.
"I think it was after we filmed with Paul. Paul had sent a little hello to Jack that we played to him and he just straight away turned to the camera. It was great.
"He could still recall players, still take great joy from certain parts of his life and absolutely connected with all of his family members and loved being around them. That was something we wanted to get across, that he still had these moments with the glint in his eye where you saw the Jack you know and love, right up until the end. There were moments when he couldn't remember things. But he was still Jack."
The film's makers partnered with The Alzheimer Society of Ireland and its equivalent in the UK. "They were helpful with the filming and have been helpful since the filming to provide support and guidance. One of the reasons why we linked up with them was to be able to refer people if they have questions or if they need a bit of support or help."
The feature-length documentary looks at Charlton's football career in England and his relationship with his brother Bobby.
But as he says in footage in the film: "Joys as a manager are totally different to joys as a player. The joy for me is what we achieved in Ireland" and the film's main focus is his tenure as manager. The filmmakers sourced lots of new footage from that time while researching the film, including some from within the team bus and the Irish camp.
"We'd heard rumours about cameras on team buses, or cameras at team meetings, and it was just a lot of digging and talking to contacts, searching places like YouTube and Facebook, because certain things would pop up there that people have filmed a long time ago, and had just posted a little clip somewhere. And when you get in touch they say: 'Actually I've got a bit more'," said Pete Thomas.
"We did try very hard to include footage that people won't have seen."
The film is packed with contributions from people who knew and worked with Charlton, including former FAI president Des Casey, who made the initial phone call to gauge his interest in managing Ireland.
It also includes memories of the time from several players including Andy Townsend, Packie Bonner, Niall Quinn and Paul McGrath, who says of football: "I made friends and that's what I loved about it. Jack came in and he wanted me on the team which was amazing to me. I felt much more confidence in myself."
The legendary Charlie O'Leary, well known to Irish fans as the kit manager for many years, is in the film.
"Now a lot of people would say that's the lowest position you could have in an international team. Not where Jack was concerned. Jack made me very important. He always put you there with the players, and he never let you down in front of people. He was a master of man management. I never saw anyone equal him."
Finding Jack Charlton is widely available on video on demand from November 23, and will be screened on Virgin Media Three and BBC in 2021.
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