How An Entrepreneurial Leeds Legend Invented The Club Shop

Jack of all trades.
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Jack of all trades.

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Jack Charlton’s brash and outspoken exterior and his self-assertive and cocksure side often landed him in hot water in his early days at Elland Road. Under Don Revie he grew into a trusted leader of men, but he retained an entrepreneurial spirit that was not uncommon among professional footballers in an age prior to today’s unpalatable wealth.

This was a time, even after the maximum wage was abolished in 1961, where footballers were nowhere near the untouchable, millionaire, borderline-royalty they are today, and professional players regularly sought additional income to supplement their contracted earnings. Charlton became a World Cup-winner but was equally renowned for running menswear shops called ‘His’, one of which was on Roundhay Road in north east Leeds, and my Dad remembers buying suit lengths and having bespoke trousers made in Jack’s shops, as many people did then. But with his wife Pat, Jack Charlton also ran a souvenir kiosk outside Elland Road on match days.

The small wooden kiosk was parked outside the main gates to Elland Road on the site where the Sports & Souvenir Shop was subsequently built in 1972. The kiosk was effectively like a garden shed on wheels, with an opening at the front that became a counter and serving hatch when propped open, much like a small version of the many burger vans that line up outside the ground today. Charlton would sell pennants, books, scarves, photos and programmes and it was not long before the club, although fully sanctioning Charlton’s enterprise, cashed in themselves and built their own official souvenir shop.

jack charlton stall

Charlton would regularly ask his team mates to sign photos and other souvenirs to add value to his stock. Indeed a famous photo exists of a number of players from Revie’s illustrious team lined up in their respective international jerseys and caps for a unique team photo on the Elland Road pitch.

The story goes that this was arranged by Jack himself, with a view to printing and stocking the photos in his shops; a team full of internationals. As Giles donned his green Ireland jersey, Yorath and Sprake put on their Wales shirts, Bremner, Gray and Lorimer waited patiently in the royal blue of their Scotland shirts and Reaney, Jones, Madeley and Clarke changed into their white England shirts ready for the photo, it transpired that Charlton himself had forgotten to bring his own shirt to training on the day.

The mirth and condemnation Charlton will have received at this gaff doesn’t take much imagination, but the evidence is in the photo itself, showing ten of the international all-stars grinning mischievously, but not Charlton, who’s idea it was in the first place.

LEEDS UNITED SCAN - JC Souvenirs

Nonetheless, it does demonstrate the ingenuity and dynamism that Charlton possessed and was required to inject into his extra-curricular business activities in order to make them succeed, and the kiosk became a familiar sight outside Elland Road from the mid-1960s until the club’s own shop appeared.

Jack Charlton spanned generations at Elland Road as he saw the almost resigned mediocrity of the early 1950s, the rise under Revie in the mid-60s and he retired in 1973 with the great Leeds side at the very peak of their domestic and European assertiveness.

When Charlton left Leeds to become manager of Middlesbrough in 1973, he clearly carried this business sense with him. Dave Cocker, the son of the former Leeds and England coach Les Cocker, recalls: “When Jack went to Middlesbrough, part of the deal was that he wanted to open and run their souvenir shop. I speak to one of their directors at the time every week, a guy called Neil Phillips, who was the England team doctor from 1960 to 1974, and he was a director at Middlesbrough back then. So Jack went up there, and him and Pat ran the souvenir shop at Middlesbrough.”

Charlton’s enterprise added to his character and standing in the game, and showed a kind of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ spirit of durability and perseverance that was entirely self-motivated and far removed from the team of advisors, associates and agents that would be required to simply tempt a modern footballer away from the X-Box after training.

This is an extract from Jon Howe's new book 'The Only Place For Us - An A-Z History Of Elland Road'

Follow Jon @jonhowe1971

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