Jimmy Armfield

Jimmy Armfield made the first of his club record 627 appearances for Blackpool in December 1954 away at Portsmouth, but it wasn’t until the 55-56 season that he became established in the first team. During the next couple of season, Jimmy appeared in the Football League XI side and also played for the England U23’s team.

Jimmy Armfield spent his entire club career with Blackpool. The club had won the FA Cup the year prior to his arrival, however, Jimmy achieved little success in his seventeen years with the Seasiders. One success for Armfield was in 1956 when he played his part in the side which recorded the club’s highest ever league finish. This was in stark contrast to Blackpool’s least successful period in the 80’s, years after Armfield had left the club, they finished 21st in English League football’s lowest tier at the end of the 1982–83 season. This was to be their lowest-ever League finish and just 8 points away from dropping into non-league football.

Armfield was voted Young Player of the Year in 1959, the year he finally made his full England debut against Brazil, at the Maracana Stadium. He went on to play a further 42 games for England, fifteen of them as captain. He won being Blackpool’s Player of the Year in 1966 and despite missing out on the 1966 World Cup, he narrowly lost out on winning the Footballer of the Year award to Bobby Charlton. Jimmy was finally awarded a World Cup winners medal in June 2009 after being a member of the victorious England squad of 1966, even though he was unable to appear due to an injury picked up during a warm-up game.

Armfield’s son, John, also played football, albeit at a less successful level. In October 1980, he signed schoolboy forms at Manchester United, but John never made a professional appearance at United and later played for non-league football clubs Runcorn, Barrow and Workington.

Jimmy had a short, but successful, managerial career that saw him lead Bolton Wanderers to the 3rd Division title in 1973, and in 1975 he took Leeds United to the European Cup Final. Jimmy opted for a career in journalism in 1978. He worked as a journalist for a number of years but later became better known as one of the most respected radio commentators in the UK.

Jimmy Armfield was awarded an OBE, for services to football in 2000, and during 2005-2006, Jimmy served as High Sheriff of Lancashire after he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire in 2004. He celebrated 30 years as a well respected summariser for BBC radio Five Live in 2009, despite having to take time off when he was diagnosed and receiving chemotherapy treatment for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in his throat in May 2007. In September of that same year Jimmy made his first public appearance since his treatment at his beloved Bloomfield Road, he received a memorable standing ovation from the crowd. He later commented that, “the support of the fans had helped him through his darkest days”.

For his outstanding contribution to the game, Armfield was honoured by the Football League in March 2008, one month later on 27 April 2008, Armfield was given the PFA Merit Award at the 35th Annual Awards Dinner. He received three standing ovations when he got up to accept his award at London’s Grosvenor Hotel, and later that same year he was also inducted into the National Football Museums Hall of Fame, joining former Seasiders team mate Sir Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen in the list of Blackpool players selected by the panel which consisted of Tom Finney, Mark Lawrenson and Bobby Charlton. Former England teammate, Jimmy Greaves presented the honour to Armfield at the National Football Museum Hall of Fame Night, held in London.

The Tameside Council in Denton, where Armfield was born, honoured him in July 2009 when the Denton and Audenshaw District Assembly presented him with a lifetime-achievement award. For his services to the community in Lancashire Armfield was added to the 2010 New Year’s Honours list and appointed ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ (CBE). Armfield attended the Championship play-off Final at Wembley when Blackpool won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in May 2010.