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The Gills versus England 1966 | Jimmy Armfield

Jimmy Armfield is next in our series.

15 May 2020

Andy Ford continues to look at members of England's 1966 World Cup winning squad who played against the Gills.

Jimmy Armfield made the first of his forty-three international appearances for England, during which he was captain on fifteen occasions, in a friendly against Brazil at the Maracana Stadium on 13 May 1959, in front of over 120,000 fans.

The right-back played four times in the 1962 World Cup Finals in Chile but, having suffered a groin injury in the last game of 1963-64, whilst playing for Blackpool, with whom he spent his entire playing career, making 627 appearances in all competitions and scoring six goals between 1954 and 1971, he was ruled out of England’s busy summer schedule. Fulham’s George Cohen replaced him in the team and established himself as England’s first choice right back, with Armfield consequently unable to force his way back into the side.

After an absence of just over two years, Jimmy returned to the international side in May 1966, with appearances in friendlies against Yugoslavia and Finland, with the latter, on 26 June 1966, his final match for his country, during which he suffered a toe injury that kept him out of the 1966 World Cup Finals, one of the squad members that played no part in the tournament. Armfield’s last appearance before retiring came in May 1971, with Blackpool hosting Manchester United in front of over 30,000 fans at Bloomfield Road, the last top-flight game played by the Tangerines for almost forty years.

He became Bolton manager later that year, leading them to the Division Three title in 1973-74 and promotion to the second tier. Armfield took over at Leeds in October 1974, replacing Brian Clough, who had been sacked after only forty-four days in charge, and took them to the 1975 European Cup Final, where they lost to Bayern Munich. Jimmy’s managerial career ended when he was dismissed by Leeds in July 1978. He then worked in the media, firstly as a reporter with the Daily Express and then as a summariser for BBC Radio’s football coverage.

Armfield, who was appointed a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 2011, announced in May 2007 that he had been undergoing chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma in his throat. The treatment was successful but the cancer returned in November 2016 and he died of the disease, at the age of 82, on 22 January 2018. He has a stand at Bloomfield Road named after him, and there is a nine-foot high statue of him outside the main entrance at the ground.

Jimmy Armfield played once against Gillingham, our visit to Lancashire for a League Cup Second Round tie on Wednesday 22 September 1965. Hosts Blackpool were a top-flight outfit, whilst the Gills were in the third tier. Jimmy was one of two of England’s 1966 World Cup Final squad in the home side that evening, Alan Ball being the other. We were beaten 5-2, with Philip Burden’s match report including, ‘Blackpool were more than fortunate to go into the third round with such a seemingly convincing victory. Praise to Gillingham for playing good football throughout and, had they been able to draw level when trailing 2-1, instead of conceding another goal, the outcome could easily have been different.’ Our goalscorers were Brian Gibbs and Gordon Pulley.

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