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Two Brothers tells the story of a great sporting family, uncovering new details, exposing myths and placing Jack and Bobby Charlton in their historical context. It’s a book about two English footballers but also about English football and England itself.
In later life Jack and Bobby didn’t get on and barely spoke but the lives of these very different brothers from the coalfield tell the story of late twentieth-century English football: the tensions between flair and industry, between individuality and the collective, between right and left, between middle- and working-classes, between exile and home.
Jack was open, charismatic, selfish and pig-headed; Bobby was guarded, shy, polite and reserved to the point of reclusiveness. They were very different footballers: Jack a gangling central defender who developed a profound tactical intelligence; Bobby an athletic attacking midfielder who disdained systems. They played for clubs who embodied two very different approaches, the familial closeness and tactical cohesion of Leeds on the one hand and the individualistic flair and clashing egos of Manchester United on the other.
Both enjoyed great success as players: Jack won a league, a Cup and two Fairs Cups with Leeds; Bobby won a league title, survived the terrible disaster of the plane crash in Munich, and then at enormous emotional cost, won a Cup and two more league titles before capping it off with the European Cup. Together, for England, they won the World Cup.
Their managerial careers followed predictably diverging paths, Bobby failing at Preston while Jack enjoyed success at Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday before leading Ireland to previously un-imagined heights. Both were financially very successful, but Jack remained staunchly left-wing while Bobby tended to conservatism. In the end, Jack returned to Northumberland; Bobby remained in the North-West.
Two Brothers tells a story of social history as well as two of the most famous football players of their generation.
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