Posted: 1/22/2018
Title: RIGHT BACK TO THE BEGINNING

Blog:                                                                                                                         

               At the 1962 FIFA World Cup in Chile Jimmy Armfield, right back for England, was voted onto the World team at the end of the tournament. Brazil retained the cup that they had won in 1958 in Stockholm. and beat England 3-1 in the quarter final at Sausalito Stadium Vina Del Mar. I visited the Pacific Ocean-side stadium in 1987 with my friend FIFA referee Gaston Castro Makuc, after a memorable fish lunch on a nearby pier.

              Gentleman Jim died on Monday morning at Trinity Hospice in Blackpool after his second bout of cancer, surrounded by his family. In 2014 he published his autobiography "RIGHT BACK TO THE BEGINNING". Blackpool FC has announced that ALL ticket revenue at Bloomfield Road on Saturday v Charlton Athletic, will be donated to the hospice.

              In 1963 he had a very busy year captaining England including a 1-1 draw at Wembley against Brazil in May, captained by goalkeeper Gilmar. Pele did not play and in fact NEVER played a match at Wembley. Jim also captained England in the F.A.'s 100 anniversary match against The Rest of the World, in late October, winning 2-1. The World team was captained by Alfredo di Stefano, marching onto the Wembley turf with such famous players as Ferenc Puskas, Lev Yashin, Josel Masopust, Denis Law, Djalma Santos, Eusebio, Raymond Kopa, Uwe Seeler, Francisco Gento, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger...... Behind Armfield was Bobby Moore,  who would replace him as captain after a pre World Cup 1966 injury in Helsinki, Finland.

            He never got his place back, with George Cohen and the Three Lions back four winning the World Cup, although Armfield was on the squad. He finally received his winners medal 54 years later from Prime Minister Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street. All the squad did share the £22,000  F.A. winning bonus, £1,000 a piece after the match. On the morning of the final I went to the Hendon Hall team hotel and saw Jimmy and left a rolled up team poster in a mailing tube and stamped and self addressed to my home. He got the whole squad to sign it for me and posted it the day after the final !!!

           Jimmy made his international debut in front of a crowd of 160,000 against Brazil in the Maracana Stadium in 1959,  losing 2-0 with a young 18 year old Pele on the opposing side. Many years later, as an esteemed journalist  he was in a post match press conference in Sunderland where Howard Wilkinson had managed just 2 wins in 20 Premier League matches. " You guys never played the game, what do you know" asked Sergeant Wilko. " FOURTY THREE CAPS FOR ENGLAND..FIFTEEN AS CAPTAIN, HOWARD",  replied Armfield.

           June 1st 1963 my mate Dave, a big Liverpool fan,  and myself,  decided to hitch hike to Basle in Switzerland straight after college exams to watch England play. We hitch hiked to London, then to Dover and the overnight ferry to Ostende, Belgium and then via Brussels, Liege, Aachen and down to Switzerland with various cars and trucks. We checked into the Basle youth hostel and walked to a 5 star hotel and asked at reception for Jimmy Armfield.  He took us into the bar for pink hot chocolate and met some of the other players and left with 2 VIP tickets for the match the next day at St. Jakobs Park, with its shiny all glass front entrance.

           It was not much of a contest .Bobby Charlton scored a hat trick as England ran riot 8-1. The next day we made the 4 day return hike. Even newcomers Tony Kay and Jimmy Melia scored.

          As a young school boy I looked up to one of the seniors, Jimmy Armfield, and watched his great performances on the track, with the rugby team and as a cricketer.  He never played well organized youth football but joined Blackpool and played 627 times for his one and only club.  He did national service and played for the British Army team with Bobby Charlton before turning pro.  In 1957, not long before The Munich Disaster,  he had an offer to join Matt Busby and his good friends Charlton, Eddie Coleman and Duncan Edwards. However the local Evening Gazette offered him a job as a columnist  times a week, which together with his football salary earned hin £100 a week. Big money in those days. He bought his own typewriter for £2 and learned shorthand.

         At school lunches, as a prefect he often sat a my table where he insisted that we eat all our cabbage..ugh! if we wanted to have dessert, jam rolly polly and custard or spotted dick.!!

         After his playing career ended he continued writing and for well over 30 years commenttated and summerised for BBC Radio 5 Live. He managed Bolton Wanderers and gained promotion before succeeding Brian Clough after his disasterous 44 day reign at Elland Road in 1974. A year later he took Leeds United to the 1975 European Cup Final at Parc des Princes in Paris. They lost 2-0 to defending champions bayern Munich, due in part to some shocking refereeing from French referee Michel Kitabdjian, who never refereed again. FC Bayern President  Uli Hoeness, then on the German's squad received a serious injury from Frank Gray ., from which he never recovered, and Bjorn Andersson was also chopped down.  The Leeds fans rioted after the final whistle and the club were banned fron Europe for 4 years. Armfield bought a ticket to Geneva, went to UEFA HQ in Bern and got the penalty halved.

            He was hired by the FA in the 90's as a consultant, since he was very well respected, to talk to people and decide on recommending future managers including Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle. In late August 1985 I asked if a group of 40 players I had training in town could visit Elland Road. He arranged a private pre season friendly at the stadium with Sheffield United just for our group !! Pure Class.  The next year I was in Munich visiting Bayern coach Dettmar Cramer, who gave me my coaching badge. I told him that in the morning I was flying from Munich to London then Leeds to meet Jimmy. He asked me to suggest a star Leeds international striker should move to Bavaria..I won't mention the name, because it didn't happen.

             We met at his Elland Road office and he gave me a couple of tickets for a reserve team match later that evening. Watching the youth team play at the training pitch next door earlier I bumped into the GREAT  John Charles. I was embarrased to offer him the other free ticket but he refused because he had a problem with the Leeds United board,  and insisted for paying at the turnstiles for BOTH of us, in THE JOHN CHARLES STAND..built with money from his transfer to Juventus !!!

            The next time I bumped into Jimmy was at the Stadium San Marme in Bilbao in 1982 prior to England's 3-1 World Cup victory over France,  memorable for the Bryan Robson 10 second goal. He was smoking his pipe with his Three Nuns tobacco, as usual.

          He became Chairman of our school governors, a church deacon and organist at St. Peters, a Justice of the Peace and magistrate and much more, and enjoyed going with his wife Anne, his former childhood sweetheart,  and kids to their caravan in the Lake District and long walks. Son John played in goal for Accrington Stanley. Today his statue outside Bloomfield Road, , near the ARMFIELD South Stand, unveiled about a dozen years ago, was wrapped in tangerine and white scarves with floral tributes at its base.  His family used to live in a club house near Blackpool Airport...only £2.00 a week rent...for many years.

           A few months ago it was announced that a new school, on the site of the old Arnold School, less than 400 yards from his laterst house, would open soon and be named THE ARMFIELD ACADEMY. Well deserved. It's 2 avenues back from the Irish Sea..to escape the wind.

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