Football mourns death of '˜national hero' Jimmy Armfield

World Cup winner and Blackpool great Jimmy Armfield's death at the age of 82 is being mourned across the football world.

FILE - This is a Oct. 23, 1963 file photo of England captain Jimmy Armfield, front right, leading out England for the match against the Rest of the World led by Alfredo Di Stefano, front left, for the Football Association Centenary soccer match at Wembley Stadium, London. Jimmy Armfield, a former England captain who led Leeds to the European Cup final as a manager before a distinguished career in broadcasting, died Monday Jan. 22, 2018. He was 82. (AP Photo/File)

Tributes flooded in from team-mates and colleagues hailing the loss of a “true gentleman” and “national hero”.

Armfield, who was diagnosed with cancer for a second time last year, played 627 matches in 17 years for his only club and was a member of Sir Alf Ramsey’s victorious England squad in 1966.

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“I am deeply saddened by the death of Jimmy Armfield,” former England team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton said in a statement.

“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.”

Armfield was one of two Blackpool players along with Alan Ball named in the 1966 World Cup squad, although injury denied him an appearance at the tournament.

Only players who were on the pitch in the final received winners’ medals, but that was eventually rectified 43 years later when Armfield was 
given his medal.

He was capped 43 times for England, 15 as captain, but he was synonymous with Blackpool, where he was skipper for ten of his 17 years at the club.

Current Blackpool manager Gary Bowyer told the club’s website: “His love for Blackpool knew no bounds, and I don’t think anyone will ever come close to matching the records he set with this club.

“I could listen to him talk football all day. His passion for the game just rubbed off on you. I will always cherish those moments we had in my office with a cup of tea.

“The game has today lost one of the true greats.”

Armfield was inducted into Blackpool’s Hall of Fame in 2006 and Bloomfield Road’s newly-constructed South Stand was named in his honour in 2010, with a statue commissioned by the Blackpool Supporters’ Association erected outside the ground the following year.

In 2009 he was made a CBE for services to the Lancashire community. Flags were flown at half-mast in the town yesterday in his memory.

Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor described Armfield as “a national hero and football legend, Blackpool icon and captain of 

Taylor added: “He will be sadly missed by all who knew him and the football world is much diminished with our loss.”

Armfield, who was also a respected journalist, managed Bolton and Leeds before moving into broadcasting, where he spent more than 30 years working for the BBC.

“Jimmy’s contribution to the game at so many levels is immeasurable,” League Managers’ Association chairman Howard Wilkinson said.

“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.”

Greg Clarke, chairman of the Football Association, added: “His connection to the FA continued after he hung up his boots, and his insight and expertise was always gratefully received.

“A special man who achieved an incredible amount in his life, Jimmy will be much missed.”

Armfield’s family said he died peacefully after a “long and courageous battle” surrounded by relatives at Trinity Hospice in Blackpool.

“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,” the family said in a statement.