Walking footballer Tommy Charlton on prostate cancer, his kickabout comeback and his World Cup-winning brothers

By Michael Upton | 07/01/2019

Walking footballer Tommy Charlton on prostate cancer, his kickabout comeback and his World Cup-winning brothers

BRAVE Tommy Charlton has lifted the lid on his prostate cancer battle — and revealed how his famous brothers feel about him following them into international football in his golden years.

The Mature Millers left-winger was benched after a blood test turned up worrying signs last year but last week made it back onto the pitch.

He was keen to rekindle a passion for walking football which his World Cup winning siblings affectionately said he was mad to pursue.

“They were worried about me,” said Tommy, of Erskine Road, Eastwood.

“All Bob said was was: ‘You have got to be careful’ and Jack called me a ‘silly old b*****’.

“When I made my England debut against Italy in May, they sent a letter which was read out and I found it really touching to be praised by my brothers.”

Tommy’s weekly Wednesday night games were on the back burner after his diagnosis and he had underwent a course of 20 days of radiotherapy at Weston Park, whose staff he called “excellent”.

He added: “You go into a CT scanner and they aim the beam onto your prostate.

“I have three little tattoos so they can line the beam up. I've never had any tattoos before and I have to say with those people have real tattoos it really must hurt because this was not comfortable!”

Beam therapy is complemented by hormone treatment, which Tommy said had produced some expected side effects, including tiredness, and some more unexpected ones.

“There are things that happen that I've never had before like hot flushes and that's down to the female hormones,” he said.

“I had a laugh with the lads at football — I said if anyone said anything to me about the way I am I would slap them in the face.”

Uncovered by a blood test following an unexpected seizure in January, Tommy’s prostate cancer diagnosis came as a “huge shock”.

He said: “The prostate was swollen and cancerous,” he said.

“They did a biopsy and I will remember until my dying day the moment the doctor said it had not spread to the lymph nodes or the bones, which can be really serious. 

“If they catch it early you have every chance of being cured.”

Hopefully well on the way to recovery, Tommy — supported by his wife Carol and their family, including six grandchildren — set his sights firmly set on a footballing comeback, which he made last Wednesday.

And he enjoyed himself so much he joined another kickabout on Monday.

“I felt a bit sore so I had to have a bath but other than that I feel good,” he said.

“I’m not as fit as I was but I enjoyed myself.

"There's one guy who has a crutch. I'm an ambassador for the Walking Football Association and I would say if a guy with a crutch can do it all those people sitting around can get off their a**** and have a go."

Tommy said as well as his family supporting him - with Bobby and Jack calling him reguilarly - he'd received plenty of visits from well wishers.

"People are always dropping in," he said. "It's quite touching and heart-warming to think people are worried about you.”

Dad of three Tommy’s own father died of prostate cancer many years ago but Tommy said he was a total stranger to the disease.

“If you have an MOT you get have the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test as part of it but I never had one and I did not have any symptoms of it all,” said the retired former miners’ rescue worker and special constable.

“The one thing I would like to say is that every grown man should have a test.

“I knew nothing about it at all — it had never occurred to me

“But since I’ve started the treatment I’ve learned a hell of a lot.”

Football-mad Tommy spoke of his pride at his famous brothers’ exploits, saying there would have been little point trying to follow in their footsteps.

“I played amateur football but not really to any good level,” he said.

“When I was younger there was no point even trying to compete with Jack and Bobby but Bobby said when he was given the freedom of Manchester that Tommy would have been ‘the best out of us all’, which was lovely.

“Football has just been part of our lives — it was just ordinary to talk about football but and it’s strange to hear people talk about ‘Sir Bobby’, as to me he’s just my brother.

“I was really proud of Jack when he was manager of Ireland — that was a very proud moment in my life — and there's been some really proud moments with Bobby too like when they named the stadium after him.”

The two olders brothers’ crowning glory was helping England to win the World Cup in 1966.

Tommy revealed he had a ticket for the final — but did not make it to the game.

“I was an apprentice at the pit and I didn’t have any money,” he said.

“I had no idea how to get to London. 

“Mum and dad were taken away by the Daily Mirror but I was nobody really and I didn’t want to bother Bobby and Jack, who were the only people I knew who had any money, so I watched it with my girlfriend and her family.

“England had a really wonderful team and I could never really see how it could be anything other than an England win.

“It was most important for me that it was Bob and Jack who had won the World Cup and it was great for a little town like Ashington that they could bring the cup home.”

As for Tommy, who moved to Rotherham more than 30 years ago after being promoted within the miners’ rescue service, his versatility has proved his strength.

“I play left midfield but I can play anywhere as I’m two-footed,” he said. 

“I would play anywhere except in goal just to get a game.”

Tommy and Carol (above, with Tommy) have been raising money for Prostate Cancer UK, which aims to raise awareness of the disease and funds research.

The charity says one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives. 

Older men, men with a family history of prostate cancer and black men are more at risk, and obesity is thought to be a risk factor.

Symptoms to look out for — and tell your GP about — can include changes in the the way you urinate , such as difficulty urinate, a weak flow, a feeling of not having “finished” and needing to go more often.

These signs do not always indicate prostate cancer but are worth checking out.

Visit https://prostatecanceruk.org/ for more information.