Football is a sadder place today with Jack Charlton's death at 85 leaving a massive void in the football world.

He was the tough tackling Leeds defender who took no flak, was one of the boys from 1966 and led the Republic of Ireland to the World Cup and European Championships - but that's not even half the story.

Big Jack helped Gazza in his early career at Newcastle and stopped him eating too much cake!

Then he took Ireland on an adventure that meant he never had to buy a pint of Guinness ever again on his many fishing trips.

One of the giants of the game has gone but he leaves a treasure trove of memories behind.

His stories will be told by people who knew him a lot better than me but the occasions I did get to spend with Big Jack will live with me forever.

For a start, interviews aren't a given when it comes to journalists, especially those new to the scene.

But the Ashington-born star was always prepared to give me a line or two and was ridiculously generous with his time.

During a sit-down interview with the former Toon boss he spoke about the World Cup final at Wembley in 1966 against West Germany.

There were always stories of him not seeing eye to eye with his "kid" brother Bobby, but speaking to him for a piece in Dunston's club house, where Jack had turned up for a pint to watch the European Championship final in 2016 with everyday people, his mind transported us both back to that day beneath the old twin towers.

Jack told me: "There was one stage in the game when our kid was running back upfield, and then he just stopped and I said: ‘How are you?’, then I just hugged him."

The former Ireland boss kept insisting he couldn't remember everything but then said: "Sir Alf spoke to us before we went on to the field for extra time and he said: ‘You’ve won it once, now win it again’.

"He also said before extra time: ‘Don’t sit down, don’t show the Germans you’re tired.’

"When we went off after we’d won and the crowd demanded we came back and we went out again.

"Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters were running at the front, I wasn’t – I just stayed at the back."

Lee Ryder talks to World Cup-winning legend Jack Charlton in 2016
Lee Ryder talks to World Cup-winning legend Jack Charlton in 2016

And speaking about his partnership with another true legend, Charlton went on: “When Bobby Moore put that ball forward for Geoff Hurst to win it famously was one of them.

“Bobby was fantastic. He wasn’t a centre-half to me, I would stay in the centre-half position, Bobby would run and take the ball out of defence so I’d go across and fill the room behind him.

"I’ll be honest, it was difficult for me, especially against the Germans."

Jack loved life and lived it to the full.

I remember being at one dinner at the Civic Centre in a VIP bar when he raised his glass to me and I was thinking: 'Wow he's only met me a few times and he's letting on to me'.

Moments later his glass went up again and it was then I realised he was after a top up!

His life was being celebrated today as the game cried its heart out at his passing.

Yet he had a life that many could only dream of.

In one of his tales about the World Cup in Mexico in 1970, he recalled: "At that tournament in Mexico 1970, Bobby and me and some of the lads went for a walk.

"We found some rocks and we were diving straight into the sea.

"He said: ‘They’re might be some sharks in here, eh lads!’ They were great days."

Charlton also spoke of what the team did to celebrate winning the World Cup in 1966.

He said: “We just went to a nightclub and all the lads were there.

“All the taxis arrived and we went straight into London.

“There was food laid out on a long table, the staff came over to us and just said: ‘This is for you lads’.

“I was happy, I had cake on my plate and we’d won the World Cup.

“It never entered my head we could win it."

On another occasion he spoke about one of his players in Chris Hughton.

Knowing that Hughton had not enjoyed the greatest reception since getting the top job at United in 2009, Charlton said: “It looked like at one point we were going to get somebody who is a big name.

“For me, that’s Chris Hughton. He is a big name, he was a big player at Tottenham Hotspur and he’s played in the World Cup finals and the European Championships.

“I like Chris, I think he’s a very nice lad. Every single Newcastle supporter needs to know that."

There was also another night when Roy Keane had just been appointed manager of Sunderland and many questioned his temper.

But Charlton - who handed Keane his chance at World Cup 94 - shrugged it all off and simply said: "I never had any problems with Roy - he was as good as gold for me.

"I hate to see that (when Keane stormed off from the World Cup in 2002 after a clash with Mick McCarthy), when you have managed a player and then they get in trouble and that it hurts, and that was the same with Mick and Roy."

For younger fans it will be Charlton's adventures with Ireland at international level that will be remembered.

At Italia 90 he guided the Irish team to the quarter-finals, Charlton said: "I remember in Italia 90 we beat Romania in the knockout stages on penalties.

"We got to meet the Pope and lost very narrowly to Italy in the quarter-finals, maybe we could have gone one better to the semis with some luck!"

It was Italy who knocked out Ireland in 1990 but Charlton reflected in another interview: "Schillaci scored the winner, but we got some revenge at the next World Cup when we won 1-0 in New Jersey and Ray Houghton scored a wonderful goal.

"Nobody expected us to win that night at the old Giants Stadium."

Football fans will raise a glass to Jack Charlton today.

The term football legend is often overused in journalism, but not in the case of Big Jack.