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Paul's pain Paul McGrath reveals how Jack Charlton saved him during alcohol withdrawal

He sat on the bed, he leaned over me and said 'I'm sorry son. I didn't realise how bad you had it'.

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Paul gets advice from Jack Charlton

Paul gets advice from Jack Charlton

Paul gets advice from Jack Charlton

Paul McGrath was seized by the terrifying, dread grip of alcoholic withdrawal, Ireland's beloved, fragile-as-porcelain treasure a trembling, perspiring, emotional car-crash.

And a lanky Geordie guardian angel, pitman's cap above angular features, came to sit at his shoulder.

Jack Charlton nursed a broken creature back from the gates of hell.

Almost 30 years on, McGrath does not hesitate when asked for the defining moment in his relationship with the manager remembered as the North Star of Irish football.

He vaults past the afternoon in the Giants Stadium when he touched the divine to decommission Roberto Baggio; Italia '90 and Euro '88, days of thunder that touched him to the core, must wait for another conversation.

Paul, the wheels of his mind at work behind those handsome, gentle eyes, settles on the darkest moment of his professional life, a day when a cloying darkness enveloped him, when he sensed insanity knocking hard at the door to his soul.

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Paul and Jack shared a closesness due to Paul’s struggles with alcohol

Paul and Jack shared a closesness due to Paul’s struggles with alcohol

Paul and Jack shared a closesness due to Paul’s struggles with alcohol

Ireland were playing Turkey at the old Lansdowne Road, but the delirium that had seized Paul made even the simple task of putting one foot in front of the other and walking from the team bus to the dressing-room an impossibility.

So, as the game unspooled, he stayed there, incarcerated in his own misery, ashamed, palpitating, lost in horror.

Back at the hotel, cowering like a petrified Bambi in his room, Paul heard the door whoosh open.

In walked Jack.

"The sweat was pumping out of me," Paul recalled again just last Friday, "it wasn't a nice place to be.

"I genuinely hadn't been able to get off the bus. I had let Jack down. I'd let Ireland down. My mind was racing."

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Paul with Jack and his wife Pat at a match in 2015

Paul with Jack and his wife Pat at a match in 2015

Paul with Jack and his wife Pat at a match in 2015

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The show of humanity Charlton unveiled might have rescued Paul from an even darker fate.

"He sat on the bed, he leaned over me and said 'I'm sorry son. I didn't realise how bad you had it'.

"I broke down. It poured out of me. I was bawling. Bad as I was, it dawned on me. This man might just get what this thing is doing to me. He cares. He really cares.

"I can't overstate what that act of kindness meant to me. That was a measure of the man."

The acclaimed new film about the life of the Englishman who injected so much colour into Irish life, Finding Jack Charlton, is available to watch on DVD and digital download from tomorrow.

Paul has had a rough few months. His dear mother, Betty, the ever-present rock in his life, died in September.

"The odd time, I go to pick up the phone to ring her and I have to stop myself," he says, a small silence filling the space between us, "it will get better, hopefully."

Charlton, another huge figure in Paul's brilliant, sometimes chaotic life, succumbed to dementia at age 85 in July.

Where some identified Jack as a blunt, no-nonsense coal-miner's son, McGrath found a paternal figure, a man with a depth of decency that became apparent over time.

"I came around to him quickly. He would stop the bus and bring us in for a pint. I thought to myself 'I could get to like this man'."

McGrath chuckles as he recalls how Charlton - an English World Cup winner - immersed himself in Irish ballads and rebel songs that played on the team bus as it ferried them to battle.

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It makes an interesting juxtaposition with the current controversy over the video Stephen Kenny aired before the recent loss at Wembley.

"Jack loved it. Some of the songs were, well, let's say a little edgy. But Jack understood that this got us up for games.

Above all, it is the kindness that spilled from Charlton on one of the darkest days of Paul's life that lingers.

"For him to even bother with somebody who had let him down so badly. I couldn't get over that.

"It was nothing to do with football. It was just about Jack thinking 'Oh my God, this lad is not well' and I wasn't at all well. I was in a bad way. I knew then that he loved me. He was a good man, a decent man."

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