The Gentle Giant

Ask any Welsh Football Fan who is the greatest Welshman to represent their nation and there is very high chance that they reply simply and quickly with the name ‘John Charles’. Charles stood at 6 feet 2 inches but was able to combine tremendous levels of skill and game awareness to his strong, athletic frame. What sets Charles apart from other great Welsh players (Giggs, Rush, Hughes, Southall) is one very important fact, he excelled at a World Cup Finals. You could also argue a case that he is the only welsh player to have made a significant success of a career on European mainland. Charles was nicknamed “The Gentle Giant” as despite his height and strength he maintained that football should not involve purposely hurting opponents. He was never sent off or cautioned during his career.

John Charles (christened William John Charles) was born in the surrounding area of Swansea on December 27th 1931. His formative years were spent with his brother Mel Charles. The brothers began playing football in the streets and with local amateur teams, both would progress to become full Wales internationals. Charles was scouted by Leeds United at a young age while playing for a local non-professional team. His league debut came in 1949 against Blackburn Rovers at centre half, in this position he would play for his first three seasons before being converted to his more natural position, as a central striker. At Leeds United Charles scored 150 goals in eight seasons, a highly impressive feat given the large percentage of those games that he featured at centre half. In the 1953-4 season Charles demonstrated just why striker was his most productive position on the pitch with a colossal 42 goals.

John Charles took the brave step in 1957 of testing his game in the challenging Italian league. It cost Juventus £65,000 to acquire his services. Following John Fox who had earlier moved to Real Madrid in Spain, Charles became the second British professional to have ever transferred to a foreign club. The Italian League hasufabet ค่าน้ำ notably been a graveyard for British players ever since, and it is this that puts into some perspective the success that Charles enjoyed in Turin. Over 5 seasons he player 155 matches and scored 93 goals, he played a significant role in Juventus winning the Italian Championship three times over his five year tenure (1958, 1960 & 1961) they also scooped two Italian cups (1959 & 1960). This success was duly recognised by Italian football fans when he was voted their greatest ever non-Italian player, some accolade considering the players to have performed in Italy such as Maradona, Platini and van Basten. Charles is still referred to in Italy by his affectionate nickname “The Gentle Giant”

John Charles was a proud represent of Wales, the country of his birth. His debut came at the tender age of eighteen, unfortunately for Welsh football he would make only 38 appearances (scoring 15 goals) due to a lesser International calender during that era. John’s greatest moments with the International team came when he was the Welsh talisman at the 1958 World Cup Finals. Charles starred in this tournament and led Wales to the quarter finals where they would succumb to a sole Brazil goal scored by the great Pele. Charles missed this crucial match through injury and many observers still maintain that had Charles played the outcome of the match, and indeed the entire tournament may have been different, sadly we will never know.