Inspiring players’ return to top flight

Inspiring players’ return to top flight

TOAST OF THE TOWN: Jack Charlton celebrates Middlesbrough’s promotion with players and staff.

LIFTING CUP: Jack Charlton with the manager of the year trophy in 1974.

First published in Sporting Yesteryear The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Reporter

IF Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray needs anything to inspire his team’s return to the top flight after three years, he only needs to look back to the 1973-74 season.

It was the year Jack Charlton’s side wrapped up the Second Division Championship in his debut season in management.

Big Jack took the job on his 38th birthday, with hopes of ending Boro’s 20-year absence from the top flight.

Despite being a top-half club in Division Two for a number of years, Middlesbrough had been unable to make the jump to the First Division.

That would all change, however, with the appointment of Charlton, and the team would do it in spectacular fashion.

Boro ran away with the league, confirming their promotion as early as March.

Second-placed Luton finished 15 points behind, quite a distance in the days when teams were awarded only two points for a win.

The Teessiders also managed to complete the entire league campaign with only four defeats, still a club record for the fewest league defeats in a season.

That was not the only record set in that season, as Charlton’s enthusiasm and determination shone through in his side.

Charlton, who was born in Ashington, Northumberland, watched from the touchline, smoking cigarettes, as his team won nine league games on the bounce and set their longest unbeaten league run, stretching 24 matches.

Both records still stand today, a testament to Charlton’s side.

Nearly as satisfying for Boro fans that season was the double they completed over rivals Sunderland, with the Teessiders beating the Wearsiders 2-1 at Roker Park on Boxing Day, and emerging 2-0 winners at Ayresome Park the following March.

Charlton had been overshadowed by brother Bobby for large parts of his career, but after such a phenomenal season at Ayresome Park, and a Manager of the Year award, there was only one Charlton that Teesside was interested in, and that was Jackie.

Despite the fantastic season that the club enjoyed under Charlton’s watch, many people tipped Boro to last only a season in the top flight. But Charlton had not read the script and led them to a seventh- place finish.

However, Middlesbrough were unable to replicate their form against North-East teams, this time against Newcastle, only managing to pick up one draw from two games against their Tyneside neighbours.

Boro finished 12th and 13th in the next two campaigns and were becoming an established top-flight club when Charlton resigned in 1977, saying he needed a break from football.

Charlton went on to manage Sheffield Wednesday, before transforming Irish international football into a force to be reckoned with in the early Nineties.

He led Ireland to their first World Cup in 1990 and enjoyed a successful career with the team.

In the North-East, however, he will always be known for the success he brought to Ayresome Park.

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