Friday, December 21, 2012

Stan Charlton (1929 - 2012)

"Just because somebody buys you a drink, it doesn't mean you have to buy them one back," I like to think that when Stan Charlton said those words to me some thirty five years ago he wasn't just referring to a drink but the simple acts of kindness and generosity that don't need repayment just appreciation.

I learned of Stan's death last night whilst watching Sky Sports News when the announcement of his death at the age of 83 appeared on the ticker tape at the bottom of the screen. Stan was the son of Stanley Charlton who himself was a full back between the wars for Exeter and Crystal Palace. Stan played 99 times for Arsenal sandwiched between two spells at Leyton Orient for whom he played over 350 games and led them into the old First Division, something modern 'O's' fans can only dream of.

It was interesting reading the Orient fan messageboards last night as fans paid tribute to a player still regarded by many of their supporters as their greatest ever player. Stan had also been a member of the Great Britain Olympic Squad in 1952, although he didn't play, something I am sure he would have thought about this summer watching the 2012 version playing in an Olympic tournament on home ground.

After finishing his playing career Stan went into football management, albeit at a lower level to the one he had played at and spent many seasons as Weymouth manager another place where he is still talked about with fondness. As a footballer his records are all there to see but as a man he was equally as special, particularly keen to talk to young aspiring footballers like myself about how they could develop their game, he would offer words of encouragement which meant a lot to me as a youth team player.

He never talked about his career without prompting but he would sit down on a Saturday night and enjoy matches on Match of The Day whilst sharing a pint. I have particular fond memories of the evening when Nottingham Forest had won 4-0 at Old Trafford early in the 1977/78 season, when Forest had just won promotion, was shown on MOTD. I sat with Stan watching the match both of us marvelling at the speed of the Forest team.

One of my favourite memories of Stan concerns our youth team and a F.A Youth Cup replay. Our goalkeeper had got injured in the first game and I had volunteered to go in goal as we didn't have the luxury of a substitute keeper. The replay was played late on a weekday afternoon and after 90 minutes without a positive result the match went into extra time. By the time we reached extra time the evening gloom had descended and the only illumination was provided by the floodlights from the pitch the first team were training on. Stan couldn't believe what he was seeing and harangued the referee, pointing out the daftness of the situation, the lights from the adjoining pitch only covered half the pitch.  When the referee said that the light was adequate Stan calmly walked over to the floodlight switch and the whole ground was plunged into darkness and the referee had no alternative but abandon the match for bad light.

His two sons Gary and Kevin inherited the football gene although neither played the game professionally and Kevin spent some time with me on the training pitches showing me how to jockey players and also how to perfect the 'old pros' trick of easing a defender/forward out of the way whilst jumping for the ball by using your thigh against theirs.

I haven't seen Gary, Kevin or indeed hadn't seen Stan for thirty odd years but he made an impression on me as a human being which has stayed with me, just as those memories of him as a footballer have stayed with 'O's' fans of a certain vintage.


Span Ows said...

very good. Something about the surname obviously involves a football gene.

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