WATCH: Honour for Bobby Charlton, the football legend who couldn't stop scoring against Pompey

I won't pretend to know Bobby Charlton - even less that he'd remember me from the thousands of football fans he's met during his illustrious career.

Tuesday, 10th October 2017, 5:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 7:18 am

But the Manchester United and England legend made a lasting impression on me when I chatted to him for a few minutes all of 40 years ago.

Sir Bobby was in Portsmouth for a fleeting visit as part of a promotional tour for, if memory serves correctly, a community initiative involving British Gas.

As a young reporter, I was sent to chat to him at Portsmouth Harbour station.

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Naming no names, I'd not always had good experiences when interviewing footballers, none of whom were in the same league as the man who had recently drawn a line under his Old Trafford career.

But any trepidation I had on meeting the superstar was swept away within moments. Instead, I was greeted by a softly-spoken and unassuming man who, doubtless appreciating how green I was at my chosen trade, gave me all the time I needed.

We chatted about his community work, about his daughter Suzanne's blossoming career as a BBC weather presenter, about his willingness to sign an autograph greeting for my little brother, but most of all about football.

I was thrilled to hear him say that he'd always had a soft spot for Pompey, describing them as a proper old club.


Of course, just as the young Charlton was attracting attention as an outstanding schoolboy footballer, Pompey were kings of the hill.

Doubtless the youngster from the Northumberland mining village of Ashington would have been well aware of the stars bringing unprecedented success to a club at the other end of the country.

And Pompey were still in the old First Division when Charlton began his career at Old Trafford.

But the soft spot counted for nothing when he played against them.

In three matches involving Pompey and Manchester United, he scored no less than five goals - two in a 6-1 victory over the relegation-bound Blues at Old Trafford in March 1959, two in the 3-1 win at Fratton Park in the same year, and the only goal in a League Cup 3rd round tie in Manchester in October 1970.

All would have been celebrated - but in that distinctively-unassuming let's-get-on-with-it style that I briefly experienced 40-odd years ago,

As he reaches his 80th birthday, I'm joining millions of fans around the world in hailing Sir Bobby Charlton - World Cup winner, football legend and one of the sport's all-time good guys.