Mel Charles: Ex-Wales, Swansea and Arsenal great dies, aged 81

Tributes have been paid to ex-Swansea and Wales footballer Mel Charles, who has died aged 81.

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

Former Wales team-mate and Tottenham legend Cliff Jones said Charles was a special talent.

"Mel was one terrific player and a terrific character and it's very sad to hear he's passed away," he said.

"It's said he lived in the shadow of John, but I don't think so.

Mel Charles obituary

"When we played at the World Cup in Sweden in 1958 at the end of the tournament a team was picked of all the players and Mel Charles was picked in the centre-half position.

"That tells you a great deal about Mel and his ability. He was just a very special player."

Charles played nearly 400 games in a career that also saw him play for Arsenal, Cardiff City and Port Vale.

His transfer from Swansea in 1959 saw the Gunners pay a then-record £46,750 fee for Charles, who could play centre-half or centre-forward.

Jones, who played in Tottenham's double-winning team in 1960-61, has fond memories of playing junior football with Charles.

The Wales team that beat England in 1956
The Wales team that beat England 2-1 in 1956 and included Mel Charles (back row, far left), John Charles (back row, third from right), and Cliff Jones (front row, far right)

"We played through the system with Swansea schoolboys, and signed for Swansea more or less the same time and progressed the same way through Swansea Town, as it was then," he said.

"Mel went to the Arsenal and I went to Tottenham and I was just a little more fortunate than he was because he had a nasty injury there.

"We were always in touch. We played in the Welsh team together, in fact we roomed together, and there was never a dull moment when Mel was about and he was a very special player - and you should never lose sight of that fact."

Club pays tribute

Swansea City paid tribute to Charles on the club's website, with assistant coach and ex-player Alan Curtis saying: "Not only was he highly respected as a footballer, he was a fantastic character.

"There is no doubt he will go down as one of Swansea and Wales' greatest players and will now join that great football team in Heaven."

Another Swans great and ex-Wales international Mel Nurse said: "We were brought up together with his brother John.

"We went to Cwmbwrla and Manselton schools. I followed him on and off the field. I will miss him.

"He was a big character - Swansea has lost a legend.

"Anyone who had anything to do with Mel knew he was a big personality. He will be sorely missed."

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