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In the Charlton era "we began to redefine our relationship with the British" - Tommie Gorman

Tommie Gorman thinks Jack Charlton's ten-year reign as Republic of Ireland manager coincided wit...

Tommie Gorman thinks Jack Charlton's ten-year reign as Republic of Ireland manager coincided with a period of great change in Anglo-Irish relations. 

The experienced RTE reporter joined Ger Gilroy on this evening's Off The Ball to share his memories of covering Ireland's maiden World Cup Finals at Italia '90.

Ireland's captain at those finals, Mick McCarthy, said last weekend that he believes Charlton's impact on the country extended far beyond results on the football field and Gorman agreed that's true, particularly when it comes to the shift in the relationship between Britain and Ireland during the period.

"A very wise person said to me once, 'what is life but love and sport?'," RTE's Northern correspondent said on this evening's Off The Ball.

"Sport can capture all the most important values of the highs and the lows, it can represent everything. I think what happened then was that sport was absolutely pitch perfect in summing up where we were and where we wanted to be and it was the vehicle that allowed us to do those things.

"We were trying to do it in business, trying to do it politics and sport gave us the confidence to be able to make the breakthrough. We actually became good at it, and not only was it important in the European context and how Ireland was perceived in European terms but I'd go as far as to say that it was actually a time when we began to redefine our relationship with the British.

"When you think about it, Jack Charlton was one of them and had won the World Cup with England, but he became one of us. He got an Irish passport and he was extremely comfortable with being Irish.  Charlton loved going to Ballina, loved fishing, and he loved going to Alan Kerins' family home."

Gorman added that Charlton's ability to reach out to the Irish diaspora in bringing players born abroad into the squad, showed the changing face of Ireland:

"The people he was achieving this with, John Aldridge had an English accent, (Scottish born) Ray Houghton, and then there was another generation with fellas like Kevin Moran, who had been a GAA player for Dublin and went on to play for Manchester United.

"We had Paul McGrath, and what did that say about our society? All these wonderful things were happening and as I look back on it now, and maybe it's reading too much into it, but I really think we began to redefine our relationship with the British then.

"We had this love/hate thing, we gave out about them and loved to beat them, we also followed their football all the time and couldn't give our own footballers the proper platform in our country, we couldn't give people work in our own country and they went to England.

"So we had this really complex relationship with Britain and I think on the European stage and on the sporting stage under Charlton, and this was his great, great, gift, we began to become comfortable with all those complexities and sometimes contradictions."

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Italia 90 Jack Charlton Republic Of Ireland Tommie Gorman