It’s 15 minutes since the final whistle sounded at Marston Road on a cold but dry December afternoon in the Northern Premier League game between the home team Stafford Rangers and Radcliffe F.C.
The sound of “Finally” by Cece Peniston is blaring from a jubilant home dressing room. A member of Welsh footballing royalty hobbles bare footed towards the treatment room; both ankles bandaged with brown tape.
I encounter a six-foot striker still wearing the black and white striped Stafford jersey. The player is the smiling Jake Charles, two goal hero and man of the match in Stafford’s first home league win of the season.
I’m in the presence a member of the Charles footballing dynasty. Twenty-three-year-old Jake, the grandson of the legendary John Charles of Leeds United and Juventus fame from the 1950’s and 60’s, Il Gigante Buono – The Gentle Giant, the grandnephew of Mel Charles who played for Arsenal and a nephew of Jeremy, who was a Milk Cup winner with Oxford United at Wembley in 1986.
Born in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, and having started out with Huddersfield Town, Charles has become a pivotal player for “the Boro” since moving from Stalybridge Celtic in October 2018.
Proud to be capped at youth level by the Land of his Fathers, the pleasant Jake is happy to discuss family Greats who went before him excelling in the round ball game in a country renowned for producing masters of the oval ball code.
I had to ask Jake what it was like growing up in a Welsh footballing dynasty.
He says: “I suppose there’s a bit of pressure sometimes obviously especially with who my Grandad was but I just kinda take it in and use it as a confidence. It don’t affect how I’m doing. I’ve got to work hard and do what I’m doing” in his strong Yorkshire accent.
Speaking about his grandfather who died in 2004 he says: “Obviously he was a gentle giant and such a nice guy. Everyone said. I didn’t get to spend much time with him when I were younger cause he was ill and I was only eight years old when he passed away but I just remember his hands being so big and such a big man.
“I’ve watched all the videos and read all the articles and stuff”.
Our conversation led to arguably the greatest Welsh team of all time which reached the quarter-final of the 1958 World cup in Sweden.
Jake says: “I can remember my grandmother telling me he didn’t play in the quarter- final against Brazil because Hungary, in the leg before, kicked him to absolute shreds so he ended up having a fracture in his leg. He played in the World Cup and it’s only a short time ago that Wales got back into a major tournament, so it shows the type of team they had back then”.
Jake regrets he couldn’t learn about football from his grandfather and adds: “Unfortunately he were ill and I was still pretty young and I wasn’t playing for a club. I wish I could pick up tips from him if he was still here but that’s not how it’s happened”.
His Grandad never reached a European Championship, but the current Wales side are heading to their second consecutive finals. Their chances at Euro 2020?
“I think they can definitely do well. Look at the young players coming through and they’re all making a difference and the likes of Bale and Ramsey are there so they could definitely push for it again”
On the Stafford front, he’s hopeful of an upsurge in fortunes.
“Hopefully this [the win over Radcliffe]is the turning point for us. It’s not been the best start to the season. We had people out injured. I’ve been out for a month myself. Hopefully we can kick on from here”.
He may never reach the lofty career heights of his illustrious grandfather, but the Charles family and Wales can be proud of the latest of the dynasty’s efforts for Stafford Rangers.