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Okay, it was a ridiculous haircut, admits Charlton

© Reuters Limited 2001

LONDON, Aug 1 (Reuters) - What soccer fans have known for 40 years has finally been accepted by the man himself - Bobby Charlton's famous 'comb-over' haircut was ridiculous.

The former Manchester United and England hero defied the style police for decades as he fruitlessly tried to disguise his ever-growing bald patch by allowing his remaining locks to grow to shoulder length, then flipping them over the top.

The fact that within minutes of him breaking sweat the bald truth would be revealed amid a wave of flailing tresses was deemed irrelevant by Charlton, who would just smooth it all back into place again before setting off on another midfield charge.

Charlton, a survivor of the 1958 Munich air disaster who helped England to win the World Cup in 1966 and United the European Cup two years later, became Britain's most famous footballer.

"Bobby Charlton" were said to be the only two words of English known by many around the world. Representing the ultimate in sporting fair play, he was knighted for his services to the game and became a footballing role model.

His hairstyle, however, became almost as famous as a source of ridicule.

Current Manchester United captain David Beckham has had more than his fair share of publicity for his changing hairstyles but he could at least claim the excuse of youth.

Charlton, now 63, eventually faced up to reality in his 30s and is now comfortable with his baldness. But after remaining silent on the issue for years, he has finally admitted that his coiffure was "very silly".

Speaking on BBC Radio Four, Charlton said he first started to thin on top when he was 17. "I tried a crew-cut and enjoyed it but people still ridiculed you for it so I decided to grow it," he said. "Looking back I think it was very silly."

He recalled the moment in the late 1970s when he decided enough was enough. "I just woke up one day and said to (his wife) Vera 'what am I doing? This looks ridiculous.' "So I just took a pair of scissors and cut it off."

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