Bobby and Jack Charlton: Two special brothers

JONATHAN Wilson’s latest book is another compelling read, underlining his place among the best historians of the game. Two Brothers is the bio of Bobby and Jack Charlton, both members of England’s triumphant 1966 World Cup team. It’s a story that has been told before, but never as comprehensively.

Jack is no longer with us and Bobby has dementia, a cruel condition that has hit so many of the Charlton brothers’ contemporaries. Wilson provides a well-rounded picture of their lives, but he also narrates the story with greater objectivity than most previous writers. Bobby, for example, comes across as a somewhat awkward character, a worrier and a pillar of the establishment. This persona doesn’t make him especially popular with some people, although nobody would ever deny that he is one of the greatest players ever produced by England.

Of course, Bobby’s life was not without its tragedy and Munich 1958 would have shaped his personality from a young age. Bobby was/is a Manchester United man through and through, a human being with values, morals and standards. Little wonder that he didn’t get on too well with George Best and even Denis Law. Bobby straddled post-war austerity Britain and the swinging sixties, but he looked very out of place in the latter. Best was the epitome of the 60s playboy, but Wilson presents an honest assessment of the Northern Ireland international, reflecting on the player’s self-pitying and lack of loyalty as well as his part in United’s early 1970s decline.

Bobby’s football career ended in 1973, although he had a brief flirtation with management. Jack, by contrast, was more suited to running a team. His career with Leeds United was every bit as interesting as Bobby’s at Old Trafford. Jack initially clashed with Don Revie, but was shaped into a formidable centre half. While Jack was all about function, Bobby “our kid”, was about form. Jack may have won a third of Bobby’s 106 England caps, but he played in a Leeds team that was every bit as good as Matt Busby’s third great United side of the mid-1960s. The Charltons’ England careers ended in the heat of Mexico in 1970.

They both retired in 1973, but few worried what would come next for Jack. Indeed, his managerial career ebbed and flowed according to his own designs, and he would later win the hearts of the Irish people in taking the Republic to the World Cup in 1990 and 1994.

Bobby, meanwhile, took a more ambassadorial role when it came to football, but his elder brother could never be as tactful or careful. Although Bobby was always respected for his football and place in the game, Jack was liked because he was straight forward, painfully honest, gregarious and amusing.

A decent book had to be written about Bobby and Jack Charlton and the only regret is that neither could add their own contribution to the story. Those that had the good fortune to see them play in their pomp will delight in recalling their colourful careers. Once again, Jonathan Wilson’s ability to illuminate is there for all to see, even if we are only too aware that Bobby and Jack have been household names for over half a century.

Football’s experts and influencers – some of the people we listen to

ONE OF the big changes in the football business world has been the recognition that the most popular sport on the planet now carries far greater weight than ever before. Admittedly, the game is dismissed as being the most important of the unimportant things in life, but in terms of contribution to the economy, social relevance, employment and community, football can no longer be regarded as trivial.

The rise of football as a business sector has, quite naturally, given birth to agencies, consultancies, intermediaries and commentators who earn a living on the back of global football. Equally, these companies and individuals also provide intelligent insights and interpret the economics, politics and data that gets produced.

While many fans care little for anything other than the game of football itself, understanding the background, financial structures and key elements of reporting allows people to understand why a club is successful or unsuccessful.

Game of the People  has worked with many of the key players in this industry and has provided editorial content for a wide range of reports and papers. The following is a list of some of the people we consider to be important and influential in this field. The list is not in any order and represents a selection of our most used sources. Needless to say, the list is being added to by the week. We welcome suggestions and recommendations.

UK Media: We see the Guardian as having the best stable of journalists when it comes to football – away from match reporting, writers such as David Conn and Jonathan Wilson are not only excellent scribes, but they lay a level of intelligence and sophistication to their work that is unmatched. David Conn has a strong business element to his writing but also understands the culture of the game, witness his coverage of the Hillsborough disaster trials. Jonathan Wilson, as well as being an incisive historian, has the ability to explain how football is played and how it has evolved down the decades. And there are others from the Guardian deserving of praise and respect, including women’s football expert Suzy Wrack and Italian football authority Nicky Bandini. The Athletic has lured a number of writers away from newspapers, such as Amy Lawrence and Raphael Honigstein while the Times has the likes of Henry Winter and Alyson Rudd (who was named GOTP’s top journalist in 2019). 

Swiss Ramble: This gentleman, a Brit living in Switzerland, provides possibly the most accessible and lucid explanation of football club accounts. His analyst-level content is football finance 101 for journalists, clubs, agencies and anyone with an interest in the game’s economics. And it is quite possible that he gets nothing for his considerable work. There are countless reports that reference Swiss Ramble and plenty who take his content and give no credit to the Zurich-based Arsenal fan. He is, without a doubt, social media’s foremost analyst.

KPMG Football Benchmark: KPMG’s Football Benchmark team is based primarily in Budapest, but it’s an international group led by Andre Sartori, a Juventus-supporting Italian. They came to the game after their corporate rivals Deloitte, but their European Elite report has become one of the “go-to” papers on football club evaluation. KPMG also produces a rolling player valuation tool and are regularly interviewed on TV.

Inside World Football: Experienced journalists form the backbone of this news portal which covers a broad range of topics and geographies. The site has a number of well respected writers including Mihir Bose and Andrew Warshaw. As a reference tool, Inside World Football is invaluable.

Soccerex: An events-driven company founded by Don Revie’s son, the late Duncan Revie, which stages conferences in various parts of the world. Soccerex published its third Football Finance 100 earlier this year, a report on the financial health of the top clubs.. Soccerex’s events are great networking opportunities and invariably have some top notch speakers.

Brand Finance: Brand Finance are based in the City of London and evaluate brands across many sectors and geographies. Included in their very considerable portfolio is the Football 50, which has been expanded to take the form of an annual that includes expert opinion, data and research findings. Their publications are backed by sound methodology and industry viewpoints.

Deloitte: Deloitte’s Football Money League is really the product that started the ball rolling in football finance. Although Deloitte’s research is primarily based around revenues and the elite end of the game, rather than other contributory factors, the presentation, editorial and format provides a clear snapshot of a club’s strength. Deloitte also produces an annual review of football finance, which is equally interesting and informative. These are the people that other companies aspire to emulate.

CIES Football Observatory: The Swiss-based CIES are the data gurus of the football world, producing reports that range from basic information about performance, player values and demographics to some quite obscure topics. So strong is their offering that other companies aim to partner with CIES to make use of their skills. We live in the data age and CIES are at the heart of football’s transition to a more scientific game.

Soccernomics: If Deloitte were the groundbreakers in producing club analysis, then Soccernomics , the book written by Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper, provided the ultimate text book. Soccernomics is more than a tome, though, it is arguably the most intelligent volume written about the game. Soccernomics is also an agency, comprising Kuper, Szymanski and Ben Lyttleton. They advise clubs, federations and businesses across the football landscape. The book, though, is what sells Soccernomics, it is an essential companion for anyone interested in how football works.

Academics: Kieran Maguire of the University of Liverpool’s Sports Business unit is one of the pre-eminent figures in football finance. He wrote The Price of Football  (if you can get hold of it) and has featured regularly on TV, in newspapers and websites. David Goldblatt, a larger-than-life character, has written some outstanding books, such as  The Ball is Round,  The Game of our Lives  and  The Age of Football. Also worth mentioning are: Simon Chadwick, Director of the Centre for Eurasian Sport Industry and Professor of Eurasian Sport Industry; Paul Widdop, senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University; Daniel Parnell of University of Liverpool; and Rob Wilson of Hallam University. There is a growing field of experts who have recognised the contribution made by football to society and the global economy. All of the aforementioned, who represent a far wider body of men and women from the field of academia, are worth listening to.