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Hall of Fame... John Charles: A gentle giant, feared forward and divine defender... and the best foreigner to ever play in Italy
Pavel Christ Superstar posted a topic in Juventus forumImagine for a second that the Premier League’s top scorer is also his club’s best defender. Impossible, surely. Not for William John Charles, CBE, the Swansea boyo who was adopted by Yorkshire and who went on to become Il Gigante Buono of Juventus. Elland Road’s John Charles Stand is more than just a tribute. The old West Stand was burned down in 1957 and Charles was sold for a British record £65,000 to help pay for it. Treated like meat, perhaps, but Charles was never destined to travel cattle class. In fact, Jack Charlton once revealed that Charles was the first footballer he knew who had a car. Here is a man who first played for Wales at the age of 18, making him the youngest international until a certain Ryan Giggs came along. Charles helped Leeds into the top flight in 1956 and a year later finished as the First Division’s top scorer on 38 goals. He often finished matches in defence, protecting what he had provided earlier. The story goes that Billy Wright, England captain and Wolves legend, was once asked to name the best forward he had ever played against and nominated Charles. Lion of Vienna Nat Lofthouse came up with the same reply when requested to pick the best defender he had ever faced. Certainly Charles was widely recognised to have totally snuffed out the Lofthouse threat when the pair faced each other in 1955 with Wales recording a famous 2-1 win over England in Cardiff. So Charles was special, no doubt about it. Such was the impact he made in Turin, he was voted Serie A’s greatest foreign player in 1997, four decades on. Not bad against the likes of Michel Platini either. Back to Leeds, where it all started. Charles signed as a youth player in 1948 having been on the ground staff at Swansea. The following year Charles was a regular in the side, as a defender, with the club trying to get out of the old Second Division. Gradually he was asked to play centre forward for Leeds while continuing in defence for Wales. In the 1953-54 season, Charles scored a record 43 goals in 39 games. Two years later he contributed 29 as Leeds were finally promoted to the top flight and he was club captain. Charles only played one season of First Division football for Leeds but finished with a record 38 goals in 40 matches. After that, fire destroyed the West Stand and Leeds wanted to cash in without selling the player to a domestic rival. This was what Charles said: ‘The manager called me in and said, “Juventus want you.” I said, “Who are Juventus?” and he looked at me and said, “They’re one of the best teams in Italy.” I’d never heard of them but it was different then. You didn’t have the television and press coverage you get now.’ The £65,000 move went ahead and Charles scored three goals in his first three games to become an instant hero to Il Tifosi. Things went from good to better as the Welshman netted 28 times and helped the Old Lady of Turin to their tenth Serie A title. He was also voted footballer of the year in Italy. Charles enjoyed five trophy-laden years at Juve. Three Scudetti and a couple of Italian Cups were just reward for the glut of goals which he provided. There was also the 1958 World Cup. Wales had qualified – for the only time in their history – but they did not disgrace themselves, drawing against Hungary, Mexico and Sweden. Wales went on to beat Hungary in a play-off and earned a quarter-final tie against Brazil, who had a promising youngster called Pele in the squad. Charles, who went on to play 38 times and score 15 goals for his country, missed the match through injury. In 1962 Charles left Juventus and returned to Leeds, who themselves had returned to the second tier of domestic football. It was not a success despite the record £53,000 outlay and the player quickly headed to Roma in a £70,000 deal. Three seasons at Cardiff City and a non-League swansong at Hereford United followed before Charles finally called it a day. He was awarded the CBE in 2001 and since then has been included in the Azzurri Hall of Fame, the Football League’s 100 legends, and named the most outstanding player of the past 50 years by the Football Association of Wales. As well as the John Charles Stand, there is a John Charles Way and there is a bust of him inside Elland Road, too. Anyone who has ever tried to navigate round the complicated ring road system of Leeds will also confirm that all signs point to the John Charles Centre for Sport. It would be fair to say his name lives on. -Dailymail- Oggi la Juventus torna a parlare "gallese"; credo non possa esserci modo migliore di proiettarsi verso un futuro radioso, se non rievocando un glorioso passato, un giocatore eccezionale, come John Charles. Spero l'inglese non crei troppi disagi, tuttavia l'articolo era così ben realizzato che mi sarebbe parso offensivo tradurlo.