'The perfect gentleman': Paddy Crerand on 60 years of friendship with Sir Bobby Charlton

ITV Granada Reports Sports Correspondent David Chisnall spoke to Paddy Crerand about his lifelong friendship with Sir Bobby Charlton.

While Sir Bobby Charlton may be known by millions around the world for his football, one man knew him as a friend of 60 years.

Paddy Crerand began playing for Manchester United in 1963, and as a midfielder played more than 300 games with the club until he retired in 1971.

As well as winning the FA Cup and European Cup, Crerand also gained a lifelong friendship with Sir Bobby Charlton.

Crerand said: "I came down from Scotland in 1963 and Bobby was a big star then. Bobby never thought he was a big star but we thought he was a big star.

"To meet Bobby Charlton was nerve wracking but after a couple of weeks training you found out that he was an ordinary lad like the rest of us even though he was this famous figure."

A tribute to Sir Bobby Charlton at Old Trafford, Manchester Credit: PA

Crerand and Sir Bobby quickly became friends both on and off the pitch.

He said: "So shy he was, whenever we went with the team he would get out of the road of it all, or try to but he was Bobby Charlton. He couldn't.

"Everybody wanted to shake his hand say hello or do something. But he was such a nice man you can't believe how nice he was."

Crerand joined Manchester United on the day of the fifth anniversary of The Munich Air Disaster.

Sir Bobby Charlton survived the 1958 plane crash that claimed the lives of eight of his fellow Manchester United players.

In 60 years friendship, Sir Bobby never spoke about the crash with Crerand.

Crerand said: "Obviously it affected Bobby. If you think even you now with your pals, what if you lost half of them in a short space of time?

"You wouldn't know what to do with yourself."

Sir Bobby Charlton recovering in hospital after The Munich Air Disaster Credit: British Pathé

Despite a near-death experience, the striker would go on to lead Manchester United to an FA Cup and European Cup win, and be part of the 1966 squad that won England its first and only World Cup.

Pat said: "He was so important for the team on the pitch. Opposition they wanted to kick him but Bobby never reacted to that.

"You know he was such a graceful player if you'd seen him running oh, absolutely fantastic the way he ran about the pitch it was just beautiful to watch."

The striker not only played great football, but also ran a tight ship as Manchester United's captain.

Pat said: "I played with Bobby so many times. He never stopped moaning, never stopped moaning on the pitch and I finished up saying to him one day, 'Bobby, we're not all as good as you!'.

"You didn't take any notice of him after a period of time you knew that was Bobby. Bobby wanted perfection all the time."

A statue of Sir Bobby Charlton stands in front of Old Trafford, alongside George Best and Denis Law Credit: PA Images

While Crerand admits most of the world will remembered for his ability as a player, he remembers Sir Bobby Charlton as a friend.

He said: "I don't think lots of people knew him off the pitch but I remember him being the perfect gentleman.

"He was a great, great figure head for Manchester United.

"You go anywhere in the world even today and mention Bobby Charlton people know who you're talking about. Go anywhere."

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