The football world mourns Jimmy Armfield
Monday, 22nd Jan 2018 21:40 by Tim Whelan
For the second time in a week an England legend has passed away, as former Leeds manager Jimmy Armfield has died from cancer at the age of 82.
A statement on the club’s official site says “It is with great sadness that Leeds United learns of the passing of former manager Jimmy Armfield at the age of 82. After a playing career which included representing England 43 times, 15 of them as captain, Jimmy won the Third Division with Bolton Wanderers, before replacing Brian Clough as manager of Leeds United on the 4th October 1974.”
“Managing Leeds United for 194 games, of which they won 88 and drew 47, Jimmy was at the helm as he led the side to a 1975 European Cup Final against Bayern Munich, beating Anderlecht and Barcelona in the earlier rounds. Assisted by Don Howe, Jimmy was tasked with rebuilding an ageing side which had been successful under Don Revie, bringing in players such as Tony Currie, Ray Hankin, and Brian Flynn. The side would go on to reach the FA Cup Semi Final in 1977, and League Cup Semi Final in 1978.”
During his playing career Armfield made a club record 627 appearances for Blackpool as an overlapping right back, and played for England during the 1962 World Cup finals. He was also a member of the squad in 1966 and would probably have played against West Germany in the final if he hadn’t been kept out by a toe injury.
After his playing days were over, his first spell in management at Bolton Wanderers was successful, prompting Leeds to poach him from the Trotters when we needed a new boss after the chaotic 44 days of Brian Clough. He brought some much needed stability to club at a difficult time, but was perhaps to prove to be too nice a man to succeed at the top level.
Duncan McKenzie is fond of saying “the manager’s indecision will be final” when he describes his time at Leeds, and according to Peter Lorimer’s autobiography, Billy Bremner was even less respectful. Lorimer says that one night in a hotel before an away game the players were supposed to come down for a meeting, but Bremner stayed in his room, play cards with Allan Clarke. When a club official went up to fetch them, Bremner sent him back with a message that Armfield could “go **** himself”.
Armfield’s task of rebuilding Leeds was hampered when Joe Jordan and Gordon Mc.Queen insisted on heading to Old Trafford, with Jordan later explaining that he sensed a lack of ambition at Leeds in the late 1970s. Ultimately Leeds and Armfield were unable to attract players to the club of the same calibre as the members of the Revie side who had departed, and his time at the club came to an end with his dismissal in the summer of 1978.
Armfield never managed again, but moved into broadcasting, working as a BBC radio commentator and reporter for more than 35 years and frequently coming back to Elland Road in this capacity. After one match in the mid-1990s Howard Wilkinson was getting annoyed by the critical questions he was getting and snapped “how many England caps did you lot get?” A voice replied “Jimmy Armfield, 43”, much to the amusement of the rest of the press pack.
Armfield also worked with the FA in a consultancy role, helping to appoint England managers, and was awarded an OBE in 2000, for his services to football. If there was any justice he would go down in history as the manager who brought the European Cup to Elland Road, but he was greatly respected during his later years and he will be sadly missed.
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