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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 October, 2004, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
Widow's tribute to 'gentle giant'
The late John Charles and his widow Glenda
John Charles' life is on display in Wrexham
The widow of Wales football legend John Charles has paid tribute to her "very special" husband at an exhibition chronicling his life.

Glenda Charles was speaking as she officially opened the display in Wrexham telling his story.

The Swansea-born star nicknamed the gentle giant died in February aged 72.

His fans and a new generation of admirers can see his life in a series of photographs and films loaned to Wrexham Museum by his family.

This is just really emotional and I can't find words to describe it
Glenda Charles

Wrexham houses the national collection of Welsh footballing memorabilia. It was also the original home of the Football Association of Wales, formed in 1876, while Wales' first international match was played in the town.

Mrs Charles said for that reason Wrexham was the "apt and perfect" choice to show the exhibition for the first time in the UK.

"It's basically going through his life, there's some video footage of him playing and it's bringing in as he got older. It's bringing all his life together," she said.

"I'm very emotional. This is just really emotional and I can't find words to describe it," she added through tears.

"I've had a look around already so hopefully next time round I'll be a little bit more composed."

John Charles signing autographs
John Charles was a favourite among fans

Mr Charles started his career with Leeds United when he was only 17, scoring more than 150 goals in eight years, including 42 in the 1953-4 season.

He moved to Italian giants Juventus for a then record fee of 67,000 in 1957 and scored 93 goals in 155 matches, winning his gentle giant nickname, or "Il buono gigante".

He was never booked or sent off in his career and his widow said that was typical of his character.

"He was very special, he was very, very well respected and I think he had a lot of respect for other people. And everybody loved him because he was always the same, he never changed," she said.

Awarded the CBE in 2001, Mr Charles, who also had spells with Roma and Cardiff, played in the last Wales team to qualify for the World Cup, starring in the 1958 finals.

His CBE is on display in Wrexham along with other medals and moulds of the boots he wore throughout his career.

Dignitaries packed the museum on Friday, including Welsh Sports Minister Alun Pugh and Wrexham FC manager Denis Smith, who said John Charles was possibly one of the greatest players ever.

"He's definitely the greatest Welsh player and he's up there with your Maradonas and your Peles. You're talking about a great player," he said.

The exhibition, set up through the Gentle Giant Trust, runs until 18 December and Mrs Charles hopes it will continue in south Wales, Leeds and Italy.

In pictures: Memorial to John Charles
19 Apr 04  |  In Pictures
Wales remembers national hero
21 Feb 04  |  South West Wales
Charles: The Gentle Giant
21 Feb 04  |  Football

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