DOCTOR OF SCIENCE
A Uachtaráin na hOllscoile, a dhaoine uaisle go léir, mo cháirde acadúla agus go speisialta Jack Charlton, ba mhaith liom 'céad míle fáilte, a chur romhaibh chuig an ocáid mór sea. We are gathered here today as an academic convocation to honour one of Ireland's contemporary heroes, in this case a great hero of sport, Jack Charlton. However, in modern society, the Universities are one of the few institutions which can properly honour a hero, with the appropriate dignity and ceremony - and paean of praise. I stand here representing the bards of old, and indeed some of my ancestors purveyed that function lang syne.
Born in Ashington, Northumberland in England, Jack Charlton was a stalwart of Don Revie's Leeds United and of Sir Alf Ramsey's England, gaining a World Cup winner's medal in 1966, and 35 caps. He followed his brother Bobby (now Sir Robert) as English Footballer of the Year in 1967, and made a record of 629 league appearances as centre-half for Leeds. A tough but fair player himself, it was said he could inflict bruising with eye contact alone! He was voted English Manager of the Year in 1974 taking Middlesborough United into the First Division.
In 1986 Jack Charlton was appointed as Irish Manager, and three months later he piloted Ireland to our first-ever senior trophy in beating Iceland and Czechoslovakia to win a triangular tournament in Reykjavik. Eighteen months later Ireland qualified for the 1988 European Championships for the first time in our history, losing in the final stages to Holland, the eventual winners. Two years later he took Ireland to a magnificent debut in the World Cup Finals, reaching the last eight, before we bowed out to Italy.
Recently, of course, Jack managed Ireland to our second successive World Cup Finals, when, in beating Italy in normal play, we did something that not even Brazil could do when winning their goal-less Final on a penalty shoot-out. To qualify for the World Cup Finals, Ireland had to fight our way through an extremely tough group of seven nations, including Spain, and European Champions Denmark. This involved 12 games, of which we won 7, drew 4 and lost only 1; scoring 19 goals with 6 against, and gaining 18 out of 24 points: a marvellous performance, by any standards.
Some people may wonder in what context a university, representing the world of academia, could honour a member of quite another world, that of sport. However, there are many sound academic reasons, not least of which is the original classical background to all the great festivals of sport. Some 4,000 years ago there arose, from ancient tribal rituals, the Greek spring time festivals in honour of the Nature God Dionysos. There were numerous Dionysia, and they included opening and closing ceremonies (Pompe and Kosmos), and contests (Agon) in dramatic presentations and recitations, in which no less than Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were among the victors. Indeed, in the Dionysia may be said to lie the origins of Drama itself.
The Ancient Olympic Games and the Panathenaic and other Games -(all religious festivals, to honour Zeux, Athena and other gods) - were structured on the same pattern, but their contests included sports. Thus, sport and the various art-forms would seem to have evolved from the ritual practices associated with the magicoreligious beliefs of primitive societies, from which today's ceremony also in part derives. Masterton has acknowledged that "Sport has a strong affinity with the Arts, because it originates from the same source".
Secondly, sport is evolving apace in a number of academic disciplines. The science of sport has emerged as a strong area in its own right over the past 25 years, embracing physiology, biochemistry, nutrition, biomechanics, physics, materials science, psychology and sports medicine.
Sport is also being increasingly studied in Humanities Faculties in many universities. I first gave a paper on the poetry of sport, entitled the Poetry in Motion, to a major University conference entitled 'Sporting Fictions', back in 1981. The conference involved sessions on drama, film, television, the novel, and poetry. (Indeed, at that 1981 conference references were quoted in some of the presentations to statements by Jack Charlton himself). Also, there is a burgeoning academic literature on the sociological aspects of sport. For example last month there was published 'Sporting Females', analysing critical issues in the history and sociology of women's sports, a major text by Jenny Hargreaves, who has the Chair of the The Politics and Sociology of Sport at the Roehampton Institute in London. A number of university departments of Geography run joint courses with Physical Education departments on Tourism and Leisure, and Departments of Law run increasingly relevant conferences on 'Sport and the Law'.
There are many football poems, and some are good.
"It is, after all, a kind
Of music, an elaboration of themes
That swell and subside, which
In the converting of open spaces
Take on a clean edge.
A throw, a chip,
A flick, Wilson to Charlton,
To Moore, to Hunt, to Greaves -
The diagonals cross, green space is charmed." (from 'World Cup', by Alan Ross).
"I'll stand the lot of you, I said
to the other kids. They said: Right!
The four others were the Rest of the World:
Banks; Pele, Best; Pele, Charlton, Best;
Pele, Pele, Charlton, Charlton, Best." (from 'I'll Stand the Lot of You', by Martin Hall).
Probably the oldest football poem is from the Scottish Maitland Folio of 1580. In previous centuries, both football and golf had been banned in Scotland, as interfering with vital practice at archery! Here is the anonymous 'The Bewteis of the Fute-ball', which, you will note, anticipates the rise in over-use and other sports injuries:
"Brissit brawnis and brokin banis, Stryf, discord, and wastie wanis,
Cruiket in eild, syne halt withall - This are the bewteis of the fute-ball."
"Twisted muscles and broken bones, Strife, discord and broken homes,
Old players stoop, their bodies tall, These are the beauties of football."
Thirdly, and very relevantly to this most entrepreneurial of Irish universities (with our first-class College of Business), sport is very big business indeed, with a huge retailing and staffing infrastructure, spreading extensively into the vital leisure and tourism industries, creating employment and generating income on a larger scale. Sport accounts for £225 million in annual spending in the Irish economy, and supports more than 8,000 full time jobs. If jobs in sports-related activities such as golf and fishing are included, the figures rise to £560 million and 18,000 jobs. In 1990 over half a million tourists took part in a sports-related activity during their stay in Ireland; just under half of these visitors indicated that the availability of sports facilities influenced their decision to come to Ireland, (according to a report commissioned by the Department of Education from Professor Martin O'Donoghue of Trinity College Dublin, and published last month).
Fourthly, as the novelist-philosopher Julian Barnes has indicated, Time is turning all of us into History, a process which is often mentally and spiritually painful. One might ask what defences do we have to ease the pain of this historical process of Time? For most people, love would be their main counter (of spouse, children, parents and family); for many also religion is their main counter; for others it includes the arts - music, drama, dance, art, literature and poetry; for still others it includes sport. Jack Charlton's taking of Ireland to the finals of the World Cup united our whole people in a way that few activities can do, and raised the sum total of the Nation's happiness, providing one more bulwark against the ravaging pain of Time. Of all the areas for such great achievements, whether in sport, the arts, medicine or science, sport usually creates the most immediate impact, which has thus all the more powerfully elevating effect on the Nation's psyche.
So, given these major aspects of the interweaving of sport, academia and society, what has been Jack Charlton's contribution to all this? What do soccer managers actually do? In a single word it is 'everything' - either directly, or by delegation. Before the team even leaves the country the manager has been ultimately responsible for team selection, training the playing skills and techniques, the tactics and play-patterns, the kit, the psychology, the sports medicine, the fluid and nutrition, and the physical fitness. The sheer physical fitness, for a body-contact multiple-sprint sport such as soccer, is complex in itself, comprising aerobic stamina, anaerobic local muscle endurance, muscle strength and speed, joint flexibility, and even how much fat the players have - and everything is increasingly scientifically based.
Jack Charlton's phenomenal managerial success with Ireland has been rooted in many factors, including his extensive coaching background, his communication skills, his enormous attention to detail, and his personal charisma as a motivator. He has structured the Irish side according to the players whom he actually has, he has evolved appropriate play-patterns for them, and he has stayed with those patterns. This last is vital, as it takes so long to alter national team tactics and play-patterns.
"His was the impartial vision of the great, Who see not as they wish, but as they find."
"Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
And things unknown proposed as things forgot."
Perhaps Jack's greatest tactical contribution has been to recognise that the role of the midfield playmaker (the one who has dictated the tactics of so many continental teams) is possibly becoming obsolete. He sensed that Ireland could steal a tactical march by establishing the full backs as the most influential players on the field, especially in terms of their playing the ball behind the opposition. This does not necessarily involve the 'long ball game'; such balls may travel 10 or 20, as well as 60 yards; even then they are not simply punts upfield, but precise balls, planned for and anticipated by the Irish forwards, who know into which space to run, in given situations. Importantly, 'the first five yards are in the mind'. This is physical chess. It is chess played fast.
Oliver Wendell Holmes could well have been referring to Jack Charlton in writing:
"See how he throws his baited lines about,
and plays his men, as anglers play their trout".
"It is not strength, but art, obtains the prize. And to be swift is less than to be wise".
There is another major facet to the character of Jack Charlton, one which was important in bringing him to Ireland - his very great love of the countryside and of country pursuits, particularly fishing, and especially the magic of the salmon. Three and a half centuries ago Izaak Walton wrote, in The Compleat Angler: "We may say of angling, as Dr Boteler said of strawberries; 'Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God did not'. And so (if I might judge) God never did make a more calm, quiet, innocent recreation than angling." Walton also said "Angling may be said to be so like the Mathematicks, that it can never be fully learnt."
Such a recreation is ideal for football managers, to whom we might say:
"Then come, my friend, forget your foes, and leave your fears behind,
And wander forth to try your lunch, with cheerful quiet mind."
Jack is also renowned for his enjoyment of the Irish craic...
Of a land where ever the old are fair,
And even the wise are merry of tongue", as Yeats put it.
Finally, Pope could have had Jack Charlton in mind when he wrote of:
"...the man who counsel can bestow,
Still pleased to teach, and yet not pound to know?
Unbiass'd, or by favour, or by spite:
Nor dully prepossessed, nor blindly right;
Tho' learn'd, well-bred; and tho' well-bred, sincere;
Modestly bold, and humanly severe:
Who to a friend his faults can freely show,
And gladly praise the merit of a foe."
Mencius said; "The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart", and La Rochefoucauld: "To be a great man, one must know how to make the most of fortune".
Jack Charlton in his contagious enthusiasm for the Irish countryside has shown that he has not lost his child's heart, and in his perfecting of the Irish soccer team, he has shown how to make the most of fortune. In his taking of Ireland to magnificent sporting success, Jack Charlton may well be said to have been kissed by history.
"Look next on greatness; say where greatness lies;
Where but among the heroes and the wise."