Obituary: Ex-Wales international Mel Charles dies, aged 81

Mel and John Charles
Mel (left) and his brother John Charles both played for Wales at the 1958 World Cup

Ex-Wales footballer Mel Charles has died at the age of 81.

The younger brother of John Charles, Mel played 31 times for Wales and was in the team that reached the quarter final of the World Cup in 1958.

He played nearly 400 games in a professional career with Swansea, Arsenal, Cardiff City and Port Vale.

His son, Jeremy, also played for Wales and was a member of the Swansea City team which gained promotion to the old First Division in 1981.

Like Jackie Charlton or Brian Laudrup, Mel Charles suffered from comparison with a prodigiously talented sibling.

John Charles is regarded as among the greatest of Welsh players, and is a legend in Italy where he played for Juventus and Roma.

But Mel was a serious talent in his own right.

Comparisons with John Charles are unavoidable however, as the similarities were more than physical - a fact acknowledged by Mel Charles in the title of his autobiography "In the Shadow of a Giant".

Mel Charles in action for Swansea against Liverpool in 1957
Mel Charles in action for Swansea against Liverpool in 1957

Both Charles brothers were equally at home in the heart of the defence or as the centre forward.

And like his brother, Mel did not resort to foul play and was never booked in his professional career.

In his autobiography, Mel Charles recounted that his transfer for £46,750 to Arsenal in 1959 followed a bidding war between the Gunners and their north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

When Charles opted for Highbury the fee was the highest paid for a transfer between two British clubs.

Charles family's Wales international record
John Charles, 38 caps and 15 goals between 1950 and 1965
Mel Charles, 31 caps and six goals between 1955 and 1963
Jeremy Charles (son of Mel), 19 caps and one goal between 1980 and 1986

However, Charles had to watch as Tottenham embarked on the most successful period in their history while his time at Arsenal was disrupted by injury.

He returned to south Wales in 1962 when he signed for Cardiff City, and is still revered by the fans of both the Bluebirds and Swansea City - a rare feat given the fierce rivalry between the clubs.

At the World Cup in 1958 Charles was a key figure in the side as manager Jimmy Murphy employed defensive tactics to guide Wales to a quarter final match with Brazil.

A goal by Pele - his first for Brazil - ended Wales' involvement. But he swapped shirts with Charles after the game and later said the Welshman was the best centre half he played against in the tournament, which Brazil went on to win.

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