In 1996, while a guest on BBC Radio Four's 'Desert Island Discs', Jack Charlton was asked how he felt about the "adulation" afforded him in Ireland.
"I don't like the word adulation," he told presenter, Sue Lawley. "I like to think of the Irish as friends of mine."
Lawley, however, persisted. How did it make him feel?
"I don't know," he replied after a pause. "Grateful. Grateful. I think that's the only word I can use."
In many ways, our memories reduce him to caricature now. To a fictionalised figure. To Big Jack. Warm and voluble one moment, swaying with the scale and fury of a Chinese dragon the next. Maybe Jack's greatest strength was an understanding of his own physical presence, because he had a glare that could strip paint, a bark that rattled window panes.
Yet, his ease with people was essentially an ease with himself too.
Jack's Englishness never got in the way of things with the Republic of Ireland because flags always meant less to him than human connection.
To the end, you see, Jack was always more a Northumbrian coalminer's son than a World Cup winner. Still the spiky 15-year-old who asked 'Where's the manager's office?' after his first day working in the ghostly, underground world of Linton Colliery, having decided that that dark and dangerous life was not for him.
It's a jolt to think that Jack was only 51 when he took the Irish job, given the air he carried even then of a wise elder, of someone who had seen the world and stayed resolutely unimpressed by its glitter.
It became instantly apparent that he knew how to use his temper as a tool for, having got the job by virtue of a shambles, Jack stayed faithful to everything he'd grown up to, inviting a journalist "outside" when his first press conference threatened to degenerate into forensic analysis of that shambles.
That same day, he also volunteered his phone number to the entire gathering.
Faith was the central axiom of everything he did as Republic of Ireland manager. Faith in a dogma that is, as distinct from a philosophy. "Football is about winning games, about scoring goals," he once declared. "How you score them is a matter of opinion.
"I'll argue football with anybody in the world."
In the Republic, some media polemicists apart, he never had to. The people loved him. And they loved him, maybe above all, because he changed their self-image. His certainty became their certainty. The old bleary-eyed fatalism gave way to a soaring mood of Mardi Gras. It wasn't that he'd made a silk purse from a sow's ear, the squad inherited from Eoin Hand was rich in quality.
But Charlton brought a self-confident air that simply couldn't have been accessible to an Irish appointee.
To his credit, he never wore '66 as a badge. But it was always there, always the ultimate, unspoken bottom line when looking to hold an audience. He knew the power of it, yet had the wisdom to keep it largely silent. And as Republic manager, he became a marketing phenomenon.
After Euro '88, Jack hired John Givens as his agent, the two driving the length and breadth of the country together over the next eight years. And the man Givens remembers now is one who never truly understood his unifying power.
"To me, Jack was like an Irish farmer, really," he reflected yesterday.
"He loved the countryside and, genuinely, loved the people. But the big thing that stands out for me is that, before '88, if you had an Irish Tricolour out your window, it meant you were an IRA supporter. After '88, it had an entirely different meaning.
"I'm sure Jack was never aware of that, but people forget what those times were like."
The affection flowing from former players after news of his death broke on Saturday carried a palpable sincerity. Maybe the most touching came from Paul McGrath, describing Charlton as "like a second father to me".
Given Paul has never met his real father, this was no easy, trite line. And it was one that maybe flew to the heart of what Charlton became as Republic manager.
It's true, he could be notoriously forgetful with names, calling McGrath "some days John, some days James" in his early days and settling simply on "Arsenal" when it came to Niall Quinn.
And there's no doubt that some of his decision-making was poorly timed and needlessly blunt, not least the last-minute call to replace Gary Waddock with Alan McLoughlin in his travelling squad to the 1990 World Cup finals.
McLoughlin subsequently recalled arriving at the pre-tournament training base in Malta.
"After the taxi pulled up at the hotel steps," he wrote in his autobiography, 'A Different Shade of Green', "I exited from the left-hand door ready to collect my luggage, enter reception and meet Jack Charlton and the lads.
"As I did so, I was vaguely aware of someone getting into the taxi on the opposite side for a return trip to the airport. That person, I now know, was Waddock."
In broader terms, however, Charlton's Republic of Ireland was a story of fellowship. True, in a temper, he could flap at his players like - as Quinn once put it - "an agitated ostrich", but they knew too that he treated them as men. Trusted them.
Both Packie Bonner and Mick McCarthy speak fondly of a man who liked to wash his socks in a basin rather than entrust them to a hotel laundry, who recognised the value of a few beers as a release valve.
Who could be coerced into a quick Monday night pit-stop at his favourite Hill 16 pub on Gardiner Street when they were returning from the cinema by that familiar chant of "We love you Jackie, we do…" Someone who took an interest in their lives outside the game, who once - unsolicited - offered McLoughlin a loan having fallen under the mistaken impression that he was in financial trouble.
Quinn recalls one of his earliest Sunday nights spent with the squad and Charlton's imposition of a midnight curfew for the players.
It was 4am when he presented himself at the hotel reception desk to get his room-key, Quinn asking the porter: "Am I the last one in?"
Nodding towards a row of keys behind him, the porter replied that he was actually the first.
"Our group survived that way for a long time," says Quinn. "We looked at England's international players being pilloried by the tabloids for having a couple of drinks and we laughed. We had our way of doing things and got by. In fact, we thrived."
Much of Charlton's management style seems an anachronism now.
Tactically, he focused largely on stopping teams. On being hard to beat. And his use of technology was, sometimes, comically bad, once sitting the squad down for video analysis of the great Dutch team built around Dennis Bergkamp only to discover the side in orange on the old VHS tape was actually Holland's under-21s.
The Dutch played a pivotal and, ultimately, concussive role in Jack's story with the Republic, evicting them from Euro '88, USA '94 and, of course, the Euro '96 qualifiers on that oddly sterile night at Anfield in Charlton's final game.
By then, the magic of the marriage had - clearly - begun to dissipate.
With key personalities now retired, Charlton's energy was on the wane, too. The players remember a softer, more indulgent figure.
He played table football with journalists the night before the game, many of whom were personal friends by now. The senior writers especially resembled a small college of cardinals around him. They were in his confidence and he in theirs.
After Anfield, the pragmatism in Charlton told him it was time to go rather than give the FAI an opportunity to sack him. It was better that way, more dignified.
Jack had become far too deeply loved by the people for a sacking to look anything less than a vulgarity.
He could make that deduction through the flat North-East personality that was never lost, something - curiously - that always seemed to impart more substance to him than younger brother, Bobby. The two did not speak for decades after a falling out over their mother, Cissie.
Yet, invited some years ago to present Bobby with a lifetime achievement award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, Jack described his sibling as "the greatest player I've ever seen". And then, voice trembling, "And he's my brother!"
It was known in recent months that his health was failing. Givens visited about a year ago only to encounter a man being slowly lost behind the heavy veil of Alzheimer's.
The former Irish physio, Mick Byrne, made regular phonecalls too, but - latterly - his chats were only with Jack's wife, Pat.
Givens and business partner Trevor O'Rourke had flights booked to visit again a couple of months back only for Covid to make the trip impossible.
So, when Saturday's news broke, his emotions almost caught him off guard.
"I was surprised at how emotional I became," Givens says now.
"We all knew he was struggling, but I suppose I probably thought he'd still see out the year. He was a special man who just got us. There was nothing manufactured about his relationship with the Irish people."
Nothing manufactured in his life really.
Jack Charlton never changed, never lost that stamp of a Northumbrian coalminer's son.
He knew the world and the world knew him, yet he never left home. Not in the real sense.
It was his greatest strength and, ultimately, his dignity.