John Charles, the 'Gentle Giant' of Juventus and Wales, was the greatest footballer of his generation. So how do you follow in the footsteps of the greatest? For his younger brother Mel, it was a question that stalked his own career. From a homesick schoolboy at Leeds to playing for his home town club Swansea, Mel forever found himself in John's formidable shadow. But then came Wales' one and only appearance at the World Cup finals at Sweden in 1958 - and a quarter-final tussle with Pele and Brazil. Mel Charles was voted the best centre-half of the tournament, and a record-breaking transfer to Arsenal followed. Mel found himself enjoying the London high life alongside film stars and singers. Injuries would blight his Highbury career, before he found happier times with Cardiff and the Welsh League. He went on to win 31 caps for Wales, including trips to Mexico and Brazil, and scored all four goals in one memorable international game.
Always the joker, and the more outgoing of the Charles brothers, larger than life Mel embarked on some hair-brained but hilarious business ventures after his football career ended, before watching son Jeremy become a Welsh international and letting his pub team play in Pele's prized shirt in Sunday league matches. Now 75, but still celebrated by Welsh football fans as one of the heroes in 1958, 'Charlo' tells his own uplifting story.
Mel Charles is one of the most popular and respected figures in Welsh football. His contribution to the sport was recognized with a lifetime service award by the Welsh FA in 2000, and he is one of five survivors from the team of 1958 who were honored with a civic reception in Cardiff in 2008. Still an enormously popular figure, and hailed as one of football's true gentlemen, Charles is one of the few men revered by Swansea and Cardiff supporters alike.