'My brother made a big mistake. I don't understand why he did it. He couldn't have possibly known her and said what he said. I was astonished.
'My mother was a strong character. My wife is also a very strong character ... There was a clash and it just never went away really. We stopped seeing each other. At the end of the day you have to have your priorities and mine was my wife.'
The feud between Britain's most famous footballing brothers was reopened yesterday when Sir Bobby Charlton broke his silence about years of rancour with his brother Jack, accusing his 1966 World Cup team-mate of making 'absolutely disgraceful' statements about his wife.
Sir Bobby, who is promoting his autobiography published next month, spoke for the first time about the rift between his wife and his late mother and admitted that he now rarely sees Jack, even at Christmas.
The strife was laid bare in 1996 when Jack publicly accused Bobby of failing to visit their mother before her death, leaving her heartbroken. Bobby responded: '[Jack] came out in the newspapers saying things about my wife that were absolutely disgraceful. Nonsense. Ask anybody that ever met my wife: "hoity-toity" is not a word they'd use. My brother made a big mistake. I don't understand why he did it. He couldn't possibly have known her and said what he said. I was astonished.'
He confronted Jack at the first opportunity, but Jack refused to back down. 'I didn't want him to do anything, I wanted him to explain.' But he could not, Sir Bobby said.
'I made my mind up that I would protect my wife whatever happens and that's the way I saw it. I mean, maybe I should have gone to see my mother but maybe, maybe...' Asked if he would have liked a reconciliation with his mother, he replied: 'I wouldn't have looked for it and I wouldn't have expected it.'
Sir Bobby revealed that he hardly sees his brother and that the arrival of grandchildren failed to save their relationship. 'I don't think anybody should feel sad about it. He's a big lad, I'm a big lad and you move on. I'm not going to ruin the rest of my life worrying about my brother and I've no doubt he's the same. If we see each other we'll say hello. I'm sorry it's happened, but life goes on.'
When contacted by The Observer for a response yesterday, Jack remained silent for several seconds.
Finally, he said: 'I don't want to get involved in all of this. I've been through it all before and I don't want to get involved. I was surprised that he's doing a book and it's all appeared in the book and it's all been written before and I've nothing to say about it at all.'
Jack, 72, a former Republic of Ireland manager, said: 'I'm not going to answer questions, forget it, that's it.' Jack Charlton's eldest son, John, who works for a sports club, said: 'I know Jack's a little bit disappointed and feels Bobby doesn't need to write that kind of stuff. I think it's like anything, you've got to know the full story.
'It's all about lots of half-truths. You can make anything read how you want it to read and ... the way it appears is not necessarily the way that it was. I know what went on and what's been said and what's happened over the years.'