Sir Bobby Charlton’s brother has spoken of his dismay that the England footie legend has dementia.
Tom, 74, added he feared this diagnosis had been on the cards because the 1966 World Cup winner had been too ill to talk to him in recent times.
Tom described Sir Bobby as “lovely” and “always a gentleman”.
It has been a devastating year for the family. Sir Bobby’s older brother Jack, who was also one of the heroes of 66, died at 85 in July after battling dementia.
Another of the World Cup winning team Nobby Stiles, 78, died on Friday after also suffering from dementia.
The news about Sir Bobby has been released with permission of wife Lady Norma who said she hoped revealing the diagnosis “could help others”.
Tom, 74, said of the condition: “It’s really very sad and I had suspected it.
“I phone him regularly to make sure they are both OK.
“Norma would put me on to Bob and we’d have a little chat but lately, the last few times, I’ve not spoken to him.
“I think he was unwell. But you couldn’t ask for anyone better to look after you than Norma.
“It is so difficult for people around them because I remember Jack’s wife had an awful time and she was a pillar.
“Well, Norma is a pillar too. She’s been around all these years and looked after Bob. I will be eternally grateful for her for doing that. It’s marvellous.
“They have been such a loving couple and have two fine daughters.”
Manchester United legend Sir Bobby, considered by many to be England’s greatest ever player, is the fifth member of the World Cup winning team to be diagnosed with dementia.
Manchester United said: “Everyone at [the club] is saddened that this terrible disease has afflicted Sir Bobby Charlton and we continue to offer our love and support to Sir Bobby and his family.”
Former England striker Gary Lineker, 59, tweeted: “Yet another hero of our 1966 World Cup winning team has been diagnosed with dementia. Perhaps the greatest of them all, Sir Bobby. This is very sad and deeply concerning.”
England and Man City forward Raheem Sterling, 25, said he had “always been very humbled” in Sir Bobby’s presence, calling him a “legend”.
Sir Bobby, born in Ashington, Northumberland, was 20 years old in 1958 when he survived the Munich air disaster which killed 23 people including eight of his United team-mates.
He scored 249 goals in 758 games for United – records that stood for decades – and helped the club win the European Cup in 1968.
His 49 goals for England put him at the top of the list until Wayne Rooney overtook him in 2015.
Up until the end of last season, Sir Bobby regularly attended United games alongside Lady Norma.
Tom, one of the four Charlton brothers, said: “Bob was the best footballer I have ever seen and he’s lovely.
“And I’ve seen lots of good footballers who do tricky things and all that but Bob was a complete footballer. He was superb.
“Bob was always a quiet guy, he never looked for limelight. He wanted a quiet life with his family.
“He’s a nice guy, a lovely fella. I’ve been very lucky.
“Bob was always a good brother. I never had a wrong word with Bob or Jack – it’s wonderful.
“I’m the youngest, Bob was second and Jack the eldest. I always looked up to Bob and Jack but in different ways. Jack was authoritarian and my big brother. Bob has always been a gentleman. Bob would not hurt anybody, he’d rather say nothing than say something nasty.
“I remember him tapping me on the shoulder in the board room at Manchester United and he said ‘I’ve got somebody I want you to meet’ and it was [Dutch footballing great] Johan Cruyff. I was just speechless, stood there with my gob open. Bob had a little laugh at that.
“Bob appreciated just being treated like a brother. I was just his little brother, someone to look after.”
Sir Bobby received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Sport Personality of the Year Awards in 2008 – it was presented by brother Jack.
A significant number of other players from that era have also been diagnosed with dementia.
It puts more pressure on calls to further investigate the possible link between football and brain disease.
Talking about the concerns, Tom said: “Heading can’t do you any good.
“The balls hurt when they were heavy and they were wet as well and on a rainy day they were even twice the weight again. It is totally unnatural thing to do.
“But Bobby wasn’t one for the heading the ball – Jack was the guy who headed the ball.”
On a pit man’s salary, Tom could not afford to go to Wembley to watch his brothers in the final in 66, so he watched on TV. A talented footballer himself, his career was cut short when he broke his kneecap aged 23.
Tom, who lives in Rotherham, South Yorks, and who worked for the Miners’ Rescue Service, hailed his two famous siblings, saying: “I’m just lucky to have had two wonderful brothers. Who could be more proud than me?”