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Thu 25 Oct 2007 05:11 PM

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Hot seat: Bobby Charlton

Sir Bob remains England's top scorer and is one of football's ultimate living legends.

As famous as the beautiful game itself, Sir Bob remains England's top scorer and is one of football's ultimate living legends. Becky Lucas caught up with him on his recent visit to launch Manchester United Soccer School's new season at Dubai Sports City, and chatted about Germany's inability to let the '66 final lie, the importance of football sponsors and why England can't seem to bring home another world title.

We recently interviewed German goalkeeper Sepp Maier, who lost against you in the 1966 World Cup Final. He still believes the ball never crossed the line and that England didn't win. Do you have a message for him?

The referee gave the goal, and the linesman gave the goal. I assumed that it was a goal. But Germany just never seemed to accept it. I speak to [German coach] Franz Beckenbauer quite often and he's accepted it. Not only did we score the goal, but we were the best team and we deserved to win. People tend to forget that because it was clouded by a bad decision. Every time I go to Germany, they always bring this up. I think in 1966 it was their famous team; it was their favourite team. They were very fond of the players and they were really upset that they didn't win. I also think Sepp was being a bit tongue in cheek.

Why did you decide to set up the school in Dubai? Anything to do with all the Manchester United players with places on the Palm?

Not at all. We've been in various other parts of the world, so we thought, why should we not come to Dubai? This is a football-mad place. There are a lot of Manchester United fans here that would love to go to Old Trafford and watch live matches, but they can't. So, we try to come the other way.

Do you really think you'll find any promising players in the Middle East?

We're not looking for that really. I've no doubt we may well come across one good player who'll make us say, ‘We'd better have another look at him.' But football is a business, it is a worldwide business. The real reason we come here is to try and make Manchester United have the name that it has always had with regards to young players. It's the philosophy of the club; we always make a point of trying to give players an opportunity while they're young. Matt Busby [Manchester United's longest-serving manager] started it in the old days when he introduced 16-year olds into the really rough professional league. It worked, because young players are resilient and they're quite tough.

What about at Manchester United? Which young players should we be keeping our eye on?

Well, there's a few of them, but Alex [Ferguson] likes to put them out on loan. We still have a lot of players in the first team that are young anyway, so there's a long way for them to go yet.

Do you think sponsors have too much power in the game today?

It's true that the school is a business, and it is commercial. ‘Sponsor' is usually a dirty word. In the professional game, anything that is ‘business' is not to be trusted. But at the end of the day, if we can get sponsors, that means we can stabilise the prices of admission tickets. Because we don't expect the fans who want to come to see the matches to have the sole responsibility of paying for any players.

Why can't the current English national team ever get it together in the World Cup?

Because the Premier League is the most famous in the world, and people watch it because it's exciting. It's not an excuse, but I think that our game is played at such a high tempo, that to play in a tournament at the end of a very long, hard season is really quite difficult. I also do believe that we sometimes have very good players, and there's no reason why we shouldn't win the World Cup. There is no reason. Every time we have a World Cup I keep thinking that someone will solve the problem. There are injuries, or there's a change of manager. We also give respect to the other teams that are playing. There are a lot of teams in the world that want to win the World Cup, not just England. I keep waiting for it now.

Who do you think should be the next England manager?

I've not given that a thought, because the one we have there at the moment seems to be as good as we can get. Steve McClaren's fine. Now he's been given the opportunity, he's had a couple of results. So I don't even think about that really, it's not the time.

What do you think Alex Ferguson will do next?

I think, for the foreseeable future, he will continue to be the [Manchester United] coach. And I think that Alex Ferguson will probably let you know as soon as he thinks that there is a time for change. But that's not for the foreseeable future.

Did you find writing your autobiography difficult?

No, not at all. I enjoyed it. I wrote it with James Lawton, who is a marvellous writer. It's my story as a footballer, and what happened during my football career. Next year I will do one on England.

Check www.muss.ae for information on Dubai's Manchester United Soccer School; www.dubaisportscity.ae for Sports City.

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