Genetics, eh?

Born into a footballing family in Ashington, Northumberland, on 8 May 1935,[5] Charlton was initially overshadowed by his younger brother Bobby, who was taken on by Manchester United while Jack was doing his national service with the Household Cavalry.[6] His uncles were Jack Milburn (Leeds United and Bradford City), George Milburn (Leeds United and Chesterfield), Jim Milburn (Leeds United and Bradford Park Avenue) and Stan Milburn (Chesterfield, Leicester City and Rochdale), and legendary Newcastle United and England footballer Jackie Milburn was his mother’s cousin.

27 thoughts on “Genetics, eh?”

  1. Odd that they don’t state the long-lasting condition he had when he died. I don’t think it was AIDs, but dementia? He was a powerful header of those heavy leather balls

  2. The Other Bloke in Italy

    Diogenes, yes, I remember those heavy leather balls, usually heavier with rain and mud. I can quite believe brain damage from fully committed headers.

  3. I’m under the impression this has been shown. Not, obviously, in any one individual case but common enough to be accepted as a cause…..

  4. So Much For Subtlety

    It is odd to think of him in the Cavalry.

    It is interesting that they are all maternal uncles. No one on his father’s side. So a bit of a pity he wasn’t a girl. If he had got *two* X genes, he could have been a contender!

  5. While there obviously is a big genetic element to the son following father into professional sport lark, you have to wonder how much is also about family determinism and connections – if your father is a professional sportsman of some sort you’re probably going to be hanging around pro training grounds and sports facilities a lot. So you’re probably more likely to end up trying said sport than a random kid off the street. And because of your pro parent you’re far more likely to have access to the people who pick the junior age group teams as well than the average kid, and also be given extra chances because of your name. Would Stuart Broad have had the same chance to play cricket professionally and become an international if he was a random kid on a council estate, and didn’t have a Dad who played for England?

  6. So Much For Subtlety

    It is no surprise that Steve Sailor has written on this. A lot. With an American focus.

    I would ask how much money did people make at the sport at the time? We think of footballers spending big now, but back then – you want to bet he could have made more if he had stayed with the posh lads with the ponies?

    Which means that being a footballer was a family thing like John Major being in the Circus. There wasn’t a lot of competition. It is just what some people’s families did.

  7. There must be many examples that suggest that talent is hereditary and just as many huge talents that seemingly come from nowhere. J.S.Bach and W.A.Mozart came from musical families, there was nothing in Beethoven’s family background that suggested that he would be a musical genius. Being a very ordinary triathlete I am a huge admirer of Chrissy Wellington who is just an unbelievable talent at the sport with nothing in her background to explain it.

  8. The maximum wage for professional footballers ended in ’61, mid-career for Jackie, so his antecedents would probably have had a ‘real’ job in addition to turning out for the club. Sir Tom Finney was (famously) working as a plumber, while playing for England.

  9. A lot of probability theory was created/discovered to explain genetics.
    There is no guarantee that a son (or daughter) will inherit his/her parent’s talent nor that the combination of genes from two parents will not lead to a talent possessed by neither parent BUT there is a much much higher frequency of innate talent at X among children of those talented at X. That’s innate talent, not just learned ability through coaching and encouragement. Back in the day it was reported that “Cissie” Charlton, Jack’s mother had footballing talent and used to play with her brothers.
    @ Stonyground
    The talent that seems to come from nowhere actually comes from somewhere through the random selection of combinations of parental genes, just as you will occasionally find a genuinely shuffled pack of cards deal a complete suit to each player 1 in several million times. With 7 billion humans on the planet the random chance happens occasionally: that doesn’t challenge the importance of hereditary, it just means that it isn’t as simple as two blue-eyed parents having blue-eyed children.
    @ Jim
    Of course the sons of Test cricketers will be encouraged to develop any cricketing talent they inherit but that isn’t enough to get an England place – Stuart Broad or Christopher Cowdrey or Richard Hutton or Nicholas Compton or … had to have natural talent to hone into Test status.

  10. @SMFS
    IIRC the maximum wage for a professional footie player in the 1940-50s was 5 quid a week.

  11. As others have pointed out, not huge financial incentives back then, so the connections may have been stronger as a social thing,

    Where there’s a family connection now, you tend to find the famous one and their son/brother is more at the other end of the table or non-league. I think there’s definitely some genetic effect. The son gets some of the father’s footballing brain but throw in the mother’s genes too, and maybe they’re just not good enough.

    The people at the top of the league who are related (like the Nevilles) are so rare as to I think consider them as good genetic accidents rather than nepotism. It’s not like the BBC or the media which is stuffed full of people’s kids.

  12. I sat right next to him for an entire afternoon at the Oval about 15 years ago (he was facing in the opposite direction at the next table of the corporate area ). He was a lot larger than I had expected, seemed quite jolly.
    I`m not sure about the good breeding thing. He and Bobby were both good at football but in entirely different ways and Jack was a journeyman professional really.He got very good at his job and Alf Ramsay needed a specialist.

  13. @ BoM4
    There isn’t much nepotism in top-class sport as people want to win so they usually pick the best players. So the number of siblings/parent-and-child who hit the top cannot be explained on that basis, nor does it come within two orders of magnitude of that which would occur from random chance. Jim is quite correct that the children/younger sibling of a star would be nurtured if they showed any inclination or talent but that goes only a fraction of the way to explain it.
    Serena Williams isn’t exactly non-League, nor is Jamie Murray, nor Jonathan Brownlee, Chris Cowdrey, Stuart Broad, Nick Compton, Ken Graveney, the Nawab of Pataudi (father and son both captained India) … the Hutton boys weren’t as good as Len but both were good enough to play for Yorkshire and Richard for England. There are certainly many who don’t match up to their parent’s/sibling’s abilities and successes (e.g. Charles never quite got into the England Polo team) but there are far too many who reach international standard and far too many of those who don’t who are good professional standard to be compatible with a random distribution of talent.

  14. Bobby remains my all-time greatest footballer. Personal and team accolades at the highest level, allied to exemplary conduct.

  15. besides what John77 sez….

    How interrelated were the lads? Pakistani enrichments aren’t by far the only ones…. In fact.. the UK is a very fertile research area when it comes to familial reinforcement. Although tbf.. the brits generally draw the line at second-cousins, not first.

    yeah, yeah…. skeletons, closet…

  16. In top level rugby there’s no place to hide, not even (and I say this through gritted teeth) on the wing and families at the top level are not that uncommon. One thinks of the Underwoods, the Hastingses, the Quinnells. Only one of the 5 Lions tours 2009 didn’t have one of the Wallace brothers in the squad. And the there are the Tuilagis… if Mrs Tuilagi hasn’t been offered the freedom of the city of Leicester for producing all those tanks for the Tigers, there’s something deeply wrong. I admit, one might not actusally want the freedom of the city of Leicester at them moment, but still.

  17. “the Hutton boys weren’t as good as Len but both were good enough to play for Yorkshire and Richard for England”

    But how many lads called Ramsbottom or Eckersdyke were just as talented but got nowhere because Len Hutton’s sons were taking up the spots in the youth team?

  18. john77,

    “Serena Williams isn’t exactly non-League, nor is Jamie Murray”

    Tennis is considerably less popular than football (around 1/4 of the participation of football). At which point the effects of nurture and connections are going to be larger.

    Like, the reason you see so many sons of former drivers in F1 is that spending the tens of thousands you need to on karting is out of most people’s price range. Best driver in the world? There’s probably some kid on a council estate who could beat them, but never got the opportunity.

  19. @ Jim
    None! because the Hutton boys weren’t anywhere near the bottom of the youth team so if Jimmy Ramsbottom had been as good he would have had a place in the Youth team, displacing an inferior talent, and then the Yorkshire team and then, probably, the England team.

  20. @ BoM4
    The effects of nurture are not enough to turn a non-League player into a Wimbledon/World Champion. George Walker could make Billy into British champion but he couldn’t have done that if either had been non-League standard, which reminds me of the Cooper twins. Cricket is pretty popular and there are dozens of examples – a Surrey supporter would have cited the Bedser twins
    Motor Racing – the money restricts entry and I don’t consider it a real sport anyhow.

  21. You need to get with the program:
    1) genetics only exists for non-white
    2) white people (especially if male) have privilege

  22. @ Emil
    The science of genetics started with peas.
    The first application that was developed for humans was regression analysis on the height of (almost always white) males.
    Yes, I have massive privilege because I inherited a brain and physique both of which are very markedly inferior to my father’s but are more highly valued than the average – but that is not what The Grauniad etc are claiming – I have totally “earned” – on their definition of “earned” my race wins and my pay slips.
    The big difference between me and the Guardianistas is that I recognise that my inheritance is my good fortune so that I treat all men as my equals (except those who double-lap me in a 3000 metre race – OTOH they do their best to treat me as an equal) and that I donate some of my surlus income to help those who need it far more than I do.
    I once asked Murphy to tithe and encourage his readers to tithe – he refused and thereafter was rude to me.

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