Tributes after ‘national hero’ Armfield dies aged 82

Blackpool and England legend Jimmy Armfield

Jimmy Armfield played 43 times for England, 15 as captain

Former England and Blackpool captain Jimmy Armfield has been described as “a national hero”, following his death at the age of 82.

Armfield, who played a club record 627 times for Blackpool, missed England’s 1966 World Cup victory through injury.

He went on to manage Bolton and Leeds in a career that also saw him work with the Football Association and BBC Radio.

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.”

His family say he “passed away peacefully” surrounded by those closest to him.

Their statement went on: “Jimmy had two great loves, first and foremost was his family, to which he was devoted and loved dearly. The other was football, especially Blackpool, England and his colleagues at the PFA.”

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Jimmy Armfield (back left) played alongside Bobby Charlton (front right) in the World Cup in 1962

Sir Bobby Charlton, who first played alongside Armfield in an army side during national service, said he went to become regarded as “the best right-back in Europe in the early 1960s.”

“As an opponent, team-mate and friend he was, without doubt, one of the most honest and genuine gentlemen I had the good fortune to meet.

“However, I knew the man as well as the player and it was not by chance that we stayed in touch for so long after we had both retired.

“I have missed listening to his authoritative radio commentaries and now I will miss seeing Mr Blackpool around the scene.”

Sir Geoff Hurst played with Armfield twice in the run-up to the 1966 World Cup and said: “Jimmy was a great part of our group at the World Cup, one of the great full-backs, and one of the nicest guys you could wish to meet.

“I got to know him more after the World Cup, playing golf and at the reunions. Just an absolutely super guy and a sad loss.”

Hurst added that when George Cohen came in to replace him in the England team he dealt with it “with great dignity, that was typical of Jimmy”.

Chairman of the League Managers’ Association, Howard Wilkinson, said: “Jimmy’s contribution to the game at so many levels is immeasurable. Despite the pressures, success at any price never became an option for Jimmy. He epitomised the beautiful game in thought and deed. A true gentleman.”

Blackpool council leader Simon Blackburn said flags are flying at half-mast at the town hall.

He added: “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.”

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Blackpool announced the news on Monday morning

Armfield, who played for Blackpool for 17 years, was captain for more than a decade at Bloomfield Road.

The right-back made the first of 43 international appearances in 1959 and was England skipper for 15 matches between 1962 and 1966.

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.

Armfield was given a winners’ medal by Fifa 43 years later.

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Jimmy Armfield has been involved in the FA’s recruitment of England managers

As well as his achievements as a player, Armfield enjoyed success as a manager.

He won promotion to the old Second Division with Bolton Wanderers in 1973.

Two years later, he succeeded Brian Clough at Leeds and guided them to a European Cup final, where they were beaten 2-0 by Bayern Munich.

‘A wonderful footballer’

Armfield is described in the National Football Museum Hall of Fame as “the first overlapping full-back”.

“The pioneering right-back used to get forward at every opportunity in an era where players in his position rarely ventured beyond the halfway line.”

Clubs and former players have paid tribute to the defender for his character both on and off the field.

Former England striker and BBC’s Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker said he was “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.”

Phil Neville, who played 59 times for England, described him as “a wonderful humble man”.

Former England striker Alan Shearer, added: “You couldn’t wish to meet a warmer, more engaging man than Jimmy Armfield. A proper football man and a gentleman.”

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Jimmy Armfield took Bolton Wanderers to the old Second Division as Third Division champions

‘The epitome of a football man’

Armfield was inducted into Blackpool’s Hall of Fame in 2006 and a new stand at the club’s ground was named in his honour in 2010.

He brought his experience to the forefront behind a microphone, working as a football summariser for BBC Radio for almost 40 years.

John Murray, who worked alongside him for BBC Radio 5 live, said he was “a popular man, a friendly man – the absolute epitome of a football man”.

The BBC’s Pat Murphy also paid tribute, saying: “Jimmy Armfield was born avuncular, with a twinkly wisdom and kind nature that belied the steel needed to prosper in football. He wore his great knowledge modestly and with dignity.”

Phil McNulty, the BBC’s chief football writer, added: “This is such sad news. Not just a former England captain but also a wonderful broadcaster and an absolute gentleman. One of the nicest, most genuine men you could meet.”

BBC Breakfast and Football Focus presenter Dan Walker said he had spent many hours listening to Armfield.

“He was such a friendly, humble and kind individual. We have lost a true gentleman.”

And BBC Radio 5 live’s Juliette Ferrington said: “I loved working with Jimmy. He was brilliant broadcaster, but most of all he was absolute gentleman; thoughtful, loyal, generous and kind. I feel so lucky to have spent time in his company.”

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Jimmy Armfield succeeded Brian Clough at Leeds United and took them to the European Cup final in 1975

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