We all knew the day would come when Blackpool’s greatest ‘fighting back’ would not be able to fight back any longer, but news that Jimmy Armfield has died has hit many of us like a physical blow.
It’s hard to take the loss of one who did so much not only for Blackpool FC, the only league club he ever played for (on over 600 occasions) and England, but for his adopted town of Blackpool and for the greater good of football as manager, columnist, radio pundit and all-round ambassador for the game.
Those who were fortunate to see Jimmy play for the ‘Pool cannot speak highly enough of his attributes on the field – his speed, vision, tackling ability, distribution skills, all-round fitness and ability to motivate his team mates. He was the template for the over-lapping attacking back and although he never won honours in a tangerine jersey, in his penultimate season for the club he helped Blackpool regain their first division status, an achievement of which he was rightly proud.
Pool fans might choose to gloss over his years in management (first at Bolton Wanderers and then Leeds United) but he enjoyed reasonable success at each club.
Most of us however know him from his days as a football summariser and pundit on BBC radio, where his distinctive voice, deep knowledge of the game and sense of humour entertained millions of avid listeners. We will miss hearing his words of wisdom.
Through all of his later career it was his passion for Blackpool FC that shone through and it was fitting that he should have been vice-president of the club. For him the performance and progress of the team were paramount and he was regularly at Bloomfield Road offering advice and assistance to whoever was at the helm.
Over the last several years Jimmy watched in some distress as off-field events damaged the standing of the famous club but he always preserved a dignified stance, as befits a gentleman of integrity and civic standing, though he tried to influence events for the better where he could.
It is just a shame that he didn’t live to see the change in fortunes at Blackpool FC that the fans hope fervently is just around the corner.
Jimmy Armfield will be much missed and Blackpool fans and the whole football world should take the opportunity on Saturday to celebrate his life and contribution to the game as well as marking his passing with respect.
Blackpool Supporters’ Trust is organising the laying of a wreath and a minute’s applause in honour of Jimmy on Saturday 27th January, 2.30pm at the Jimmy Armfield statue. We hope that many fans and members of the community will join us to pay respect to our Blackpool Legend, ‘Gentleman Jim’.
We have been liaising with David Houston, CEO of Trinity Hospice and we will be joined by Trinity Hospice volunteers taking a collection on behalf of the hospice for anyone who wishes to make a donation. Alternatively it is possible to donate via the Trinity Hospice website.
We call on all fans to behave appropriately and with restraint, whether you are going in to Bloomfield Road or not – and that choice, as always, has to be a matter of individual conscience.
Saturday is all about honouring Jim, one of the greatest servants this club has ever had. May he rest in peace.