Charlton Visits Perth

When the great Bobby Charlton came to Perth…

CONTINUING our series celebrating the 60th anniversary of semi-pro football in WA…IT WILL be 40 years come February 10 since the great Bobby Charlton lit up the Solahart 1980 Night Series by turning out as a guest player with Perth Azzurri.
The Manchester United and England star, who played 106 times at international level, was 42 years of age when he pulled on the Azzurri shirt – but he never looked out of place amongst many players who were half his age.
He played in three night series games, scoring two goals. He demonstrated he had lost none of his flair and his hunger for goals, his first coming in a 3-1 win over Gosnells. But his best goal was against Kingsway Olympic, who nevertheless, went on to win 4-1.
A superstar on the pitch, Charlton also worked tirelessly off the pitch to promote the game in his three-week stay in WA.
He spoke at seminars, attended social gatherings, visited schools and hospitals and even shared the Perth Concert Hall stage with Max Bygraves and Danny La Rue in order to spread the football gospel.
He had lunch with the Lord Mayor of Perth and spoke at several sales seminars and other functions on behalf of night series sponsors Solahart.

It’s interesting looking at the team line-ups in those opening night series games in 1980. Charlton’s Azzurri team-mates included Hall of Famers-to-be in Saverio Madaschi, Sauro Iozzelli and Ronnie Campbell, while future Socceroo Arno Bertogna was in the Tricolore side.
The Forrestfield team that faced Spearwood Dalmatinacs included State team star Ray Ilott with Derek Harnwell (father of Perth Glory star Jamie Harnwell) in goal. The Dalies side boasted WA keeper Tony Witschge and ace striker Frank Smerilli.
Another top keeper, Willie McNally, was in the Kingsway Olympic side that was taking on Gosnells City, whose team included quality strikers Mike Smith and Andy Godfrey, star defender Geoff Cole and another State team keeper in Owen Nuttridge.
Charlton’s guest appearances in Perth paved the way for other superstars of the British game to grace Western Australia with their presence.
England’s World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore – then aged 38 –  travelled to WA in 1981 to turn out in two games for Inglewood Kiev, and then switched to Rockingham United for a one-off appearance. He also linked up with Cracovia in 1982 to play two games for them in a short tour of Malaysia.
The same year as Moore arrived, another England star, Mick Channon, capped off a tour of Australia – he had played four times for Newcastle KB over east – to feature in one game for Gosnells City against Kingsway Olympic, satisfying fans by scoring one goal.
Alan Ball, another member of the England team that won the World Cup, made three stand-out appearances, scoring twice, for Floreat Athena in 1982. Striker Ted MacDougall, the Scottish international who played for the likes of Manchester United and West Ham, played for Athena at the same time as Ball.
George Best, arguably the biggest name to tread a football pitch in WA, made a fleeting visit in 1983, turning out as a guest for Osborne Park Galeb. Although in the twilight of his career at the age of 37, the Irishman still showed some magical touches and scored one goal. 
England and West Ham great Trevor Brooking played six times for Kelmscott in 1985.

BRETT KLUCZNIK describes in detail Charlton’s games in WA:
Despite the wet conditions a bumper crowd of 3000 turned up to the Velodrome on Sunday 10th February, 1980, to witness  Bobby Charlton make the first of three guest appearances for Perth Azzurri.
Although aged 42, Charlton’s skills were still as sharp as ever when Azzurri met East Fremantle Tricolore in their opening match of the 1980 Night Series. Tricolore drew first blood when John Polyket netted inside a minute, but the  teams went in at the break on level terms thanks to a goal from Peter Gangemi.
With Charlton pulling the strings in midfield, Azzurri dominated the second half but could not find a way past goalkeeper Ian Harvey. Against the run of play Tricolore regained the lead when Graham Cramphorn benefited from a defensive error and rounded goalkeeper Saverio Madaschi to tuck the ball home. The result was put beyond Azzurri’s reach close to full-time when Paul McKenna rifled home from close-range.
If the tournament organisers were pleased with the turnout for Charlton’s debut, then they were left flabbergasted a week later when almost 5000 spectators watched Azzurri stormed to a 3-1 victory over Gosnells City.
Three minutes had elapsed before Chris Proctor set Azzurri down the road to victory with a superb drive from 25-metres. While the remainder of the first half produced little for the crowd to get excited about, the match burst into life after the break. Gosnells equalised in the 53rd minute when Peter Creamer rose high at a corner and powered the ball over the line. But soon after Azzurri returned to the lead when the unmarked Barry Bolton headed past goalkeeper Owen Nuttridge. The result was secured after 79 minutes as Charlton collected a fine cross from Proctor before angling a superb shot beyond the reach of the Gosnells ‘keeper.
In his last appearance for Azzurri, Charlton shone but there was little he could do against a Kingsway Olympic side hell bent on winning.
Azzurri began the 24th February clash promisingly and after 15 minutes went in front through a fantastic individual goal from Charlton. Intercepting the ball in midfield, the veteran attacker beat several defenders in racing half the length of the field before carefully placing his shot past goalkeeper Willie McNally.
The goal galvanised Olympic into action and the remainder of the match belonged to them. After the break the Green Machine kicked up a gear top pile on four goals – two each from Paul Tombides and Derek Watt – as they ran out victors by 4-1.
Following the match local fans farewelled Charlton and thanked him for a classly display of pinpoint passing, deft turns that left opponents chasing shadows, and the occasional (he was 42 after all) well-timed run into attack.

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