LONDON: Jimmy Armfield, the former England and Blackpool captain, has been described as “a national hero” after his death at 82.
Armfield won 43 caps for England, made a club record 569 appearances for Blackpool between 1954 and 1971 then managed Bolton Wanderers and Leeds United whom he guided to the 1975 European Champions Cup Final. Later he worked with the Football Association and as a summariser for BBC Radio Five.
He was made England captain in 1962 and looked set to skipper Alf Ramsey’s team at the World Cup in 1966 but a toe injury meant he did not play as England went on to win the tournament.
A statement from the Armfield family said: “After a long and courageous battle, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and father-in-law Jimmy Armfield, has passed away peacefully surrounded by his immediate family.
“At this time we are still in shock as we begin the grieving process. We know Jimmy was a public figure, but the family respectfully ask for privacy at this time. We have many wonderful messages of love and support, for which we are grateful, and moved by all the kind words.
“We would also like to thank all the magnificent and dedicated NHS staff who have kept Jimmy, and the family, as well as possible over the ten years of his illness.”
Armfield was born in Denton, Greater Manchester, in 1935 but moved to Blackpool during the war. Right footed, he played on the left wing during a trial game for the club and scored all the goals in a 4-1 win. He then spent his entire career at Blackpool, for many years playing behind legendary winger Sir Stanley Matthews.
Former Blackburn and England midfielder Bryan Douglas, speaking on Blackburn’s official website, said: “First of all, Jimmy was a fabulous guy. He was a great mate of mine, a great friend.
“He was my roommate on many England trips, so we became very close. He was a modest person and a successful footballer but most importantly a fantastic man.
“He’s going to be sadly missed. I’m so upset to hear the news.
“As a player, his record speaks for itself. He was a bit unlucky to miss out on the World Cup team, but his record with Blackpool and England is outstanding.
“He was a great footballer and a lovely man. One game that stands out was one against Spain; at that time they had two wingers that were going to tear us apart.
“Jimmy absolutely mastered their threat – he never let his club or his country down.
“We talked a lot when we were away with England before we went to sleep. I’m so upset that he’s gone.”
Councillor Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool council, said: “We’ve known he was unwell for some time but the way he fought his illness made you think he could overcome anything.
“His impact was absolutely huge. He found fame because of football but there was so much more to him than that. He had an incredible sense of humour. He was a big part of the community. A freeman of the borough.
“He played the organ at St Peter’s church. A great guy. I think there should be a minute’s silence or applause.
“We will have to show our respect for him. The flags are already lowered above the town hall. He was respected throughout the football world.”
Former England striker Gary Lineker said: “Saddened to hear that Jimmy Armfield has passed away. A wonderful footballer and England captain who went on to be a terrific broadcaster of the game he loved, and, most importantly, he was a delightful man. He’ll be much missed.”
Professional Footballers’ Association chief Gordon Taylor said that football “is much diminished with our loss”.
Armfield had been receiving treatment for cancer, after the illness returned for a second time in 2016.
Taylor, who counted Armfield as a personal friend, said he was “a national hero and football legend, Blackpool icon and captain of England, he will be sadly missed by all who knew him”.
“He had time for everybody and made the world a better place with his love for life and all his many activities for his charities, hospitals, his church and his devotion to his wife Anne, his sons Duncan and John and their wives and his grandchildren.”