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Ever since I was nine years old when I saw him score the two goals that helped Manchester United win the European Cup in 1968 Bobby Charlton has been my hero. He didn't have the dazzling ball skills of George Best and lets face it, with his prematurely bald head he looked more like a teacher that a footballer, but instead he simply exuded class and a certain dignity that no other footballer seemed to possess. I was very pleased to find then that his autobiography is exactly the same - classy, dignified but also very frank and honest.
Not surprisingly it contains absolutely no scandal but instead it is full of stories that offer telling insights into not just Bobby Charlton but also Manchester United, football and life in general in the fifties, sixties and seventies.
One of the chapters, in which he writes about the days when as a boy he used to go to watch Sunderland or Newcastle United with his older brother Jack is particularly excellent. His description of how they used to stand in a particular part of the ground so they can watch the skills of a famous player close at hand is very evocative. Also excellent is the bitingly frank chapter in which he tells of the breakdown of his relationship with his mother following her rejection of his wife, Norma.
As you would expect though, it is the Munich airplane disaster that dominates this book, just as it as dominated Bobby Charltons life since that day. The events of that day are described wonderfully well, as are Bobbys feelings of bewilderment and guilt that he should survive the crash barely harmed whilst his beloved team mates and friends had perished.
An excellent book then, and I look forward greatly to the next of the proposed volumes, where I presume he will move onto his playing for England and the World Cup win in 1966.
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on 10 September 2007
Not since Arthur Hopcraft produced the sublime 'The Football Man' in 1968 has a book on sport moved me so profoundly. When it was announced that a Bobby Charlton autobiography was imminent, I feared that it would fail to do justice to arguably the most compelling sporting figure of my lifetime. In the event, it is a majestic work, capturing perfectly, and often poignantly, the essence of the man and his times. Footballing matters are dealt with faithfully and comprehensively, but perhaps the tale is at its most arresting when addressing human relationships. There are numerous delightful vignettes which offer evocative insights into household names and he confronts family issues with candour. Charlton emerges not only as a great sportsman, but also as a sensitive, intelligent, appealingly wistful soul. Quite simply, I love the book.
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on 6 November 2007
The boring tag attached by so many to Bobby Charlton has always frustrated me. Here was a man who played football with attacking Brazilian flair and never intentionally made a tackle in his life. A man with a thunderbolt of a shot who made the commentators voice rise when uttering his name. It was notable, if not remarkable in these commercial days, that he had never before published an autobiography.

Looming large of course over everything was the Munich air disaster. One couldn't help feeling that his rather dour, pre-occupied demeanour had emerged from that tragedy. It seems it was so. Here there are glimpses of the pre-Munich Charlton enjoying the company of his closest friends David Pegg, Eddie Colman and Tommy Taylor and his upward gaze to his hero Duncan Edwards. The world is truly at their feet. And then there is the crash. The heart is ripped out of the team but also the football heart to some degree silently seems to depart Bobby Charlton as well. He explains how he just can't understand how or why he survived, so unscathed, and his friends did not. It is something that will trouble him for a lifetime. The remainder of his life certainly however seems to have been driven by the need to bear witness to what was lost. Just one among many geniuses, Charlton bears testimony to the greatness of the others. "Here I am", he says, "see what I achieved and yet I was only ordinary among the Busby Babes."

Of course Bobby Charlton won the elusive European Cup with Busby at the helm, he won the World Cup with England and he played sublime football as one of the big three of Best, Charlton and Law. He deals in this book most passionately with Munich and with his family dispute with brother Jack and their mother - here one feels he is speaking from raw emotion. He does that less so with the rather club-justifying position on Beckham's departure and the sale of the club. However, there is a lot more here than in most football autobiographies and less platitudes, albeit with some skimming over of key events (for example, the battle for the commercial ownership of United, the controversy over the Munich survivors fund). He is clearly anxious for the record to show that his contribution to the Alex Ferguson reign is recognised too.

One feels Sir Bobby Charlton has worked out his self-imposed penance for surviving Munich by being the best he could possibly be, both for his beloved club and country. I only hope that in addition to his sense of duty he manages to draw some joy from the pleasure he gave to millions of us as an Englishman playing football the Brazilian way.
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on 28 October 2007
Bobby Charlton is an amazing man, his life story is THE story of English football, and yet for such a famous and brilliant player he comes across as a humble man. Some people have accused him of being gloomy or morose and there is a certain amount of truth in that. This book is really his chance to lay the ghost of Munich, when he saw his friends and team-mates wiped out. It must have taken all his reserves of character to survive such a trauma and not only that, to actually prosper as a player. That horrible event is mentioned at the start of the book, but it is never far from the surface all the way through and it is interesting to note the warmth he feels for the old United trainer Jimmy Murphy, who gets a lot of the credit for his improvement as a player. Matt Busby is called simply `the old man`. All the supporting characters are mentioned, including George Best. Charlton`s club loyalty and basic decency are the reason for their disagreements, the hedonistic lifestyle of the young genius completely alien to Charlton`s outlook, which may as well have been pre-war. First World war. I was surprised to read his account of the well documented fall-out he had with his brother. I got the impression he wanted to set the record straight on this and other issues. This is not a scandal filled book but it`s by Bobby Charlton and that`s good enough for me.
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on 30 October 2007
This book confirms a number of things we already believed - Bobby Charlton was a great player and is a very decent man - but it also offers some surprises. Specifically, BC is thorough and candid in describing both the Munich air disaster, and the tensions between his wife and his family, two non-footballing events that shaped the life of one of our greatest footballers.

The frankness, humility and self-awareness on display make a stark contrast with many other sporting biographies cutrrently available.
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on 9 September 2007
I wanted to read about Bobby Charlton's life, find out what happend in Munich and the time he spent at Manchester United. The book covers this, exploring the emotions of a man who survived a plane crash. I for one could not look at life the same again and this is what may have happened with Sir Bobby. The writing is fluid and a pleasure to read. Highly recommended.
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Bobby Charlton was a true footballing legend during his United and England years. This book covers the former only and as his world cup triumph gains only the briefest of mentions in this - you'll have to buy the other book for more on `66.

Starting with the Munch air disaster, the tragedy that was to affect him and the team so much, we are then told of his early years in a close knit North-East family with his mother and Uncle Jackie (Milburn) being the main influences. We then soon get into the nitty gritty of his United career.

To be honest as with most sporting autobiographies, I didn't find this a very involving or provocative read. Apart from certain games and goals, Charlton speaks in generalisations rather than specifics. The playing chapters flit back and forth so you're often confused as to which period/season he is referring too and big gaps are often left. A stronger timeline may have made it a more solid book. He does not go into any great depth about family or professional relationships (he takes a whole chapter to basically say Jack and his mother did not get on with his wife) and we are left none the wiser as to the chemistry between him, Best and Law although the clumsy Nobby Stiles' antics provide rare moments of humour. He only hints at a none too warm relationship with both but again we don't know for certain and too many pages say too little.

There's some good Bobby stats at the end and excellent photos (in the hardback edition at least) and if you're a Reds fan you'll enjoy this but he comes across as a man who you wouldn't want to be stuck in a lift with for too long with so it was not great for me.

(Millwall, in case you were wondering, though I have a lot of time for Man U on the quiet).
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on 9 September 2007
Contarary to the last reiview, the writer of which was clearly looking for a crime thriller and not an autobiography, I thought this was an excellent read that provided a great insight into the brilliant and somewhat troubled life of Sir Bobby Charlton.

It is one of the best autobiographies I have read and do hesitate in recommeding it to others. Well written, interesting and very honest.
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on 1 November 2007
A very enjoyable read on a holiday blighted by bad weather and children.

Everything you'd expect from a book about the man. However, in addition some very poignant descriptions of what were, in some cases, difficult times.

Highly recommended - and that's from someone not wholly mad on football.
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on 30 October 2007
I had always thought Bobby Charlton was one of sport's true gentleman and this insightful and entertaining read proves it. A very entertaining read - I can't wait for the England years - very nice pictures
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