Blackpool’s new school, set to open on the former Arnold site next year, will be named after resort legend Jimmy Armfield, it can be revealed.
Bosses at the all-through academy, which will cater for 1,180 youngsters aged two to 16, said 86 per cent of people responding to an online questionnaire backed the name.
Former Pool captain and England World Cup star Jimmy, 81, spoke of his pride, having been a pupil and governor of 34 years at the old Lytham Road school, in South Shore.
He said: “I have always been interested in children’s education in this area – it is such a critical period in life. It is an honour to have your name perpetuated in this way.”
The Fylde Coast Academy Trust (FCAT) last year named the school The Avenue Academy after 90 people responded to a public consultation.
Chief executive Tony Nicholson later shot down former mayor Robert Wynne’s suggestion of Armfield Academy and said ‘a new beginning was needed in line with our key objectives’. But the trust softened its stance in the face of a swell of public opinion, which got the backing of several high profile supporters, including the Seasiders.
FCAT community relations and estates boss John Topping said three signs put up in Lytham Road ‘almost immediately promoted considerable local interest’ in the name.
“More than 300 contributors requested the new school be named Armfield Academy in light of Jimmy Armfield’s outstanding contribution to our communities in Blackpool,” he said.
“The trust listened carefully to these comments and subsequently met with key individuals behind the request.”
When asked, 446 people – 86 per cent – voted for Armfield Academy. The name was then decided officially by board members.
Jimmy, who recently revealed he is being treated for cancer for a second time, told The Gazette: “Attending Arnold School has always stayed with me and it is only about 400 yards away from where I live now, and there are not many old boys who have lived closer. I have driven past the site on numerous occasions since Arnold amalgamated with AKS School and it has been sad to see it boarded up and not used.
“There’s an excellent sports hall still there, as well as playing fields, and it is good that they will be used again.”
Jimmy, who had hoped to return to broadcasting last month, said he hoped that tradition and the standards of Arnold School would be passed on to future generations.
He added: “There are people from Arnold School who are now living all over the world, who are not necessarily in the public eye but who have gone on to achieve remarkable things.”
Mr Wynne, who owns the West Coast Rock Cafe in Blackpool town centre, said: “It’s such a fitting name and it will be a great present for Jimmy, who has given a lot to Blackpool. This shows there are two sides to him – the football man and the Blackpool man.
“He has stayed loyal to South Shore for all these years and this is an honour for his work in the town.”
When it opens, Armfield Academy will be the first new school in the resort since September 2013, when the £5m Gateway Academy opened.
FCAT, which runs several schools across the Fylde coast, applied to the Department for Education to open the new facility after saying plans for more housing will increase the demand for school places.
Blackpool FC chairman Karl Oyston, who backed the campaign, said: “I can’t think of anyone that has contributed so much to Blackpool over such a long period of time.
“Jimmy remains and always has been ‘Mr Blackpool’ and all at Blackpool FC send our heartfelt congratulations to a true gentleman.”
Manager Gary Bowyer said: “Jimmy’s a fantastic ambassador not just for the football club but the town as a whole. I’m delighted to see him honoured in this way.”