Maurice Setters remembered: ‘He was a friend to Jack Charlton, he trusted him’

“They’re together now and it’s just really sad,” said Mick Byrne
Maurice Setters remembered: ‘He was a friend to Jack Charlton, he trusted him’

Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton, right, and assistant manager Maurice Setters celebrate at the final whistle of the Euro 88 win against at Neckarstadion in Stuttgart. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

The rashers were about to start frying in the pan for Mick Byrne’s dinner when his grandson phoned to tell him of Maurice Setters’ death.

He took a similar call only four months ago to learn the news about Jack Charlton. Now his trusted assistant had also succumbed. Both battled Alzheimer’s Disease in recent years.

Setters died in Doncaster Royal Infirmary, having spent the previous two years in a residential home. He was 83.

“May God be good to him,” Byrne said from his home in Ashbourne, County Meath. “It’s really sad to hear about Maurice. Really sad. We worked together for so long and he was there with us for so many great times with Ireland.

“He was a friend to Jack, he trusted him. They’re together now and it’s just really sad.”

If Byrne is the most famous physio in Irish sport, Setters might just have been the most recognisable right-hand man. But there was still an understated nature to the role of support act for Charlton.

As the England World Cup winner stole the hearts of people here following qualification for Euro 88, Italia 90, and USA 94, Setters was always in the background.

Charlton did put him in charge of the U21s — a role previously included as part of the senior manager’s duties — but it was not a platform for him to go on to bigger things.

As recounted by author Eoin O’Callaghan in his recent biography of Roy Keane, Keane:Origins, which focuses on the Corkman’s early days, Setters didn’t always endear himself to promising talents.

A European Championship qualifier in November 1989 illustrates as much. It was the eve of the senior team’s qualification in Malta for the 1990 World Cup but Setters left Keane out of the allotted 16-man U21 squad.

To compound matters, he made the young midfielder chase balls that went astray during the warm-up.

The pair were reunited when Ireland reached the ’94 World Cup and both had to be frogmarched out in front of the travelling media by Charlton to deny reports of a training ground bust-up during the tournament.

Such moments might not reflect favourably but there are other more endearing examples of how Setters’ relationship with Charlton helped cultivate a spirit within Irish football that has never been captured since.

Take Niall Quinn’s arrival on the international scene in 1986.

Then at Arsenal, the Dubliner pitched up at Heathrow Airport to join the rest of the travelling squad for a triangular tournament in Iceland.

Quinn wrote subsequently: “Jack, who was talking to a group of journalists broke away to say loudly to Maurice, ‘we’ve not picked that lanky boogah, ‘ave we?’” To which Setters replied: ‘Think we had to, Boss’. I was a disciple immediately.”

Setters came to Ireland because he was someone Charlton trusted and respected both as rivals during their playing days, and also working together when he first assisted him at Sheffield Wednesday.

Setters joined Manchester United from West Brom in 1960 and was one of those who helped play a role in Matt Busby rebuilding the club following the Munich air disaster two years previously.

Setters lifted the 1963 FA Cup with United alongside captain Noel Cantwell, Johnny Giles, and Tony Dunne.

More than 30 years later he would eventually settle a case with the FAI for wrongful dismissal in December 1996, after Charlton had resigned following the European Championship play-off defeat to Holland at Anfield.

It was just a few weeks before Setters turned 60 and while he never had another high-profile job in football from that point, his legacy was already secured.

FAI president Gerry McAnaney said: “It is with a heavy heart that we learned today of Maurice’s death, another man so integral to the glory days of Irish football ... This has been a tough year for Irish football. 

“We saw how the nation mourned Jack Charlton earlier this year and I know I speak on behalf of everyone involved with the Irish football community when I pass on our deepest sympathies to Maurice’s family. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.”

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