• Home
  • /
  • Football
  • /
  • A Hero To Bobby Charlton And A Gentleman To All - An Irish Legend Has Passed Away

A Hero To Bobby Charlton And A Gentleman To All - An Irish Legend Has Passed Away

A Hero To Bobby Charlton And A Gentleman To All - An Irish Legend Has Passed Away
By Michael McCarthy

Over ten years ago, Bobby Charlton walked into Warrington House in Dublin to do an interview with Newstalk. When he walked in the door, he was greeted by a quiet but gentlemanly security guard who humbly said hello to the one of the real legends of world football.

"Are you Arthur Fitzsimons?" came the surprised reply.

Bobby Charlton grew up in the north east of England in the 1940s and '50s. He knew who Arthur Fitzsimons was.

This was the man who played alongside, and then replaced, Wilf Mannion at Middlesbrough. This was the man who was setting up Brian Clough when he was running roughshod on the Football League. This was the man who shared a pitch with Liam Whelan, Con Martin, and Charlie Hurley for Ireland, and rifled the ball home in a famous win against West Germany, in which he dominated.

Bobby Charlton knew who he was. He was a hero of his, someone he watched growing up.

He was a hero to many more too. To the likes of John Giles, Eamon Dunphy and so many more who regularly came through the doors of Newstalk, they were walking past a hero. Here they were being paid to talk about football, while the man who went before them opened the door to let them in. It was a ridiculous situation, but never one that you would hear Arthur complain about. Humble to the last, he was regularly surprised when other legends of Irish football recognised him or wanted to talk about the game with him.

But this was a true character of the game. This was a man who played for Ireland for eleven years. He remains a legend of Middlesbrough, having played 231 games for the club. He was the manager of Shamrock Rovers and Drogheda. And he even spent the 1960s coaching in Libya.

Advertisement

For the staff of Newstalk and for the guests who just wanted to keep chatting to him, one word would always come up: "gentleman".

He was a great player, a great football man, but most importantly, an absolute gentleman. Arthur was someone that made our days brighter with just the briefest of chats.

Arthur Fitzsimons passed away today at the age of 88. FAI CEO John Delaney was among the first to pay tribute to him.

Advertisement

The name of Arthur Fitzsimons belongs on the list of great Irish football men. He grew up with Shelbourne in his blood and went on to play for them before his successful move to England.

As an international player, Arthur was skilful, committed and capable of making an impact in big games, just like when he scored twice away to Netherlands in a famous 4-1 victory in 1956.

Arthur was a proud League of Ireland man and maintained his connection to the domestic game throughout his career. After he finished playing, Arthur spent time in charge of Drogheda, Shamrock Rovers and a League of Ireland XI.

We send our deepest condolences to Arthur's family and friends at this time and we will remember Arthur at an international game that is suitable for his family. He was a true gentleman.

His former club also sent out this classy statement about the passing of a club legend:

Born in Dublin, Arthur signed for us from Shelbourne in May 1949 and by the time he moved on to Lincoln City ten years later he had made 231 appearances and scored 51 goals.

He made his name as an inside-forward and a winger who would set up a fair share of goals for Brian Clough.

One of the most likeable men in the game, he won 26 caps with the Republic of Ireland and scoring seven times, and turned his hand to coaching and management once his playing days were over.

Those roles took him to Libya and back to Dublin and it was in back in his native country that he retired and where he was inducted into the FAI Hall of Fame in 2009.

Arthur's debut for us came in April 1950 in a 3-0 win away to West Brom in the old First Division, his first goal coming 17 months later in a 4-3 defeat away to Charlton.

His final game for us came in a 2-1 defeat away to Ipswich in April 1959.

The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Middlesbrough Football Club are with Arthur's family and friends at this sad time.

Official footballing tributes aside though, perhaps the story that sums up Arthur Fitzsimons best is a story that Eddie O'Mahony of irelandsoccershirts.com, who wrote this lovely story on the YBIG forum nearly four years ago.

With the fame and wealth that modern Irish Internationals achieve its easy to forget about the great Irish players that went before that many of us never got to see even on old grainy TV footage.

I had been aware that Arthur Fitzsimons, who played for Ireland with distinction from 1949 to 1959, lived around the corner from me, and I'd often seen him walking and meant to stop and have a chat with him but didn't want to disturb him. The other night he was in our local shop in front of me, and as he went out, I said I'd say hello.

We got talking and he seemed surprised that someone my age had even heard of him, knew who he was, or worse could tell him he scored 7 goals in 20 odd games in a ten year Irish career.

He started talking about the great players he played with and the efforts that Irish players made to even get home to play for their country during that era. The lack of facilities, medical backup, kit, and the poor wages on offer - but that nothing would stop him getting home to play for his country.

30 minutes had passed and I didn't want to delay him so I just asked him,

"What was it like to pull on the green jersey and play for your country"?

His eyes started to mist over, his voice trembled, and he started to tell me about:

"The unforgettable noise that you could hear inside the dressing room in Dalymount as we got ready. The hairs standing up on the back of my neck as I put on my jersey knowing that I was going out to play in front of (the fans), and for my country, and how when i stood for the National Anthem, I felt 10ft tall, and as strong as 10 men. We feared no-one. I never played for money or fame, but for my country and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat".

By this stage Arthur wasn't the only one who was misty eyed! He is 85 in December and still looks as fit as he did back in the 50s. It was a real inspiration and privilege listening to him talk, and some of the current generation of Irish footballers could do with listening to him speak to fire them up before they wear that green jersey to really appreciate the great honour they receive every time they are even called up to a squad.

Arthur Fitzsimons will never be as famous or as wealthy as any of the modern players but like all our ex-players, they deserve to be remembered for their efforts in green. It was a real pleasure to meet him.

 

Join The Monday Club Have a tip or something brilliant you wanted to share on? We're looking for loyal Balls readers free-to-join members club where top tipsters can win prizes and Balls merchandise

Processing your request...

You are subscribed now!

Copyright © 2022. All rights reserved. Developed by Square1 and powered by PublisherPlus.com

Advertisement