Dundalk boss Vinny Perth has paid tribute to former Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton who passed away at the weekend, saying a statue should be erected in his honour for everything he did for Irish football and society.
Perth has fond memories of watching Big Jack’s Irish sides growing up and was even at his final match in charge against the Netherlands at Anfield in December 1995 when a Patrick Kluivert double denied the nation a place at Euro 96.
“Myself and Richard Dunne were on the Kop,” he told The Argus on Sunday.
“We were part of the 20,000-odd singing ‘We want Jack’ to come back out onto the pitch. He came back out then in the end. Obviously the way the team played that night they were well and truly beaten by the Dutch and even though people knew it was the end very few managers since then have got the respect he did.
“When you think the way the world has gone since then, he was probably one of the last not to be hounded out of a job or to be questioned at the end of their tenure.
“I grew up in that era and I feel he should be held in the highest regard because he thought Irish people how to win at football.
“I have massive respect for him and I’m very disappointed that some people would question his tactical ability. In one game he played Paul McGrath right full and Ronnie Whelan left full with Mark Lawrenson in midfield against Scotland and it was a game they won. Even in 1994 the decision to play Phil Babb alongside Paul McGrath, who was starting to age at that time, was a brilliant decision. People always talk about McGrath’s performance but it was a big call to put Babb in beside him so he got a lot of good big tactical decisions right.
“The modern day coach says press and counter press, Jack said ‘Put them under pressure’ so he certainly wasn’t short of tactical know-how.”
Perth said the ‘Big Jack’ era is full of “special memories” for him from his childhood.
“I definitely remember all of the big games. As I said it was amazing to be at his last one but I was at so many of his games over the years.
“I was a little bit young in 88 or 90 for being in a pub or anything like that but there were house parties and I have very fond childhood memories of 88, 90 and 94.
“It’s amazing how the world stopped for those games. When you consider lockdown, there was certainly a lockdown when Ireland played. There were less people on the streets than what we’ve seen in lockdown. That period is just full of special memories for me as a kid. It was inspiring.
“Andy Townsend was a real hero of mine because I played in midfield. They were just amazing times.”
Indeed, the 43-year-old said that the impact Charlton had changed Ireland.
“When we talk about recessions, none of our players now really know what a recession is. When you think back to the 80s, it was a tough time. I was very young but I do remember certain bits of it that were quite tough and certainly in the area that I was growing up in there was a lot of unemployment so to see the way as a country we changed and got more confident around the world was amazing.
“You could make the case that what Jack Charlton and that Irish team did, changed Irish society forever. There’s definitely a case to be made for that argument.
“It’s probably a shame that there isn’t a statue for him but I think it would be fitting if there was a statue in FAI headquarters or near the Aviva Stadium. I know that might not be easy because it’s a ground we share but it would be nice if something special was done to remember him when fans are back in the ground,” said Perth.