Former stars gather for Billy tribute

Pat Lynch, Andy Watson, Steve Redmond, Neil Bailey, Rony Rodwell, Rick Leighton, Mark Bonner, Dave Bamber and Jimmy Armfield.
Pat Lynch, Andy Watson, Steve Redmond, Neil Bailey, Rony Rodwell, Rick Leighton, Mark Bonner, Dave Bamber and Jimmy Armfield.
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“A PROPER man, someone who you could trust and rely on.”

That was the glowing tribute to former Blackpool boss Billy Ayre from one of the club’s greatest ever players.

Jimmy Armfield, Dave Bamber, Tony Rodwell and Neil Bailey.

Jimmy Armfield, Dave Bamber, Tony Rodwell and Neil Bailey.

Jimmy Armfield was among 250 guests who were at Bloomfield Road for the ‘Billy Ayre Tribute night’ on Friday.

A host of famous faces from the club’s past were joined by Ayre’s family and supporters for the event which organised by Blackpool Supporters Association.

Dave Bamber, Tony Rodwell and Mark Bonner were among Billy’s former players who spoke warmly about their former boss.

John Cross, one of the event’s organisers, said it was a huge success.

Elaine Ayre, David Ayre and Rachel Ayre

Elaine Ayre, David Ayre and Rachel Ayre

“We are delighted with how it went,” he said.

“We wanted to pay tribute to one of our most popular ever managers and I think Friday was a fitting tribute.”

Ayre managed the club in the early 90s and famously took Blackpool to Wembley for two play-off finals.

The star of Ayre’s reign was striker Dave Bamber, and he paid the following tribute.

Billy Ayre tribute dinner at Bloomfield Road

Billy Ayre tribute dinner at Bloomfield Road

“Billy was straight, tough and honest,” he said.

“I joined the club at the same time as Billy, and it was an honour to play for him.

“He was a proper bloke and someone who’s sadly missed.”

This year signals the 10th anniversary of Ayre’s death, and supporters unveiled a painting of him to be hung in the club’s supporters bar.

Artist Scott Rimmer said he was delighted to get involved.

“I’ve painted pictures for Blackpool before, so was over the moon when I got the call this time.

“Billy Ayre was manager when I first started watching Blackpool, so this painting meant a lot to me.”

Also in attendance was the Ayre family, who appeared totally overwhelmed by the love for Billy.

And his son, David, said:

“I can’t believe almost 20 years later, people still care so much.

“It’s been brilliant to listen to all the stories and learn so much about my dad’s time at Blackpool.

“He would have been so pleased to see this, and we are all so proud.”