To Duncan and John, Jimmy Armfield was just ‘Dad’. Here they talk about their childhood memories of watching their dad play at Bloomfield Road and how he and wife Anne instilled a work ethic they have followed in adult life.
The Armfield family lived on Ravenwood Avenue before moving to Beechfield Avenue, near Stanley Park, and later Stonyhill Avenue.
John: ‘I was a result of the Chile World Cup in 1962 - dad came back and I appeared in the March. He must have been at altitude for too long!
Duncan: ‘I don’t think it ever occurred to me that he was famous when we used to go to Blackpool and saw the footballers, it was just what we always knew.
‘And then when he went to Bolton it was very similar and then when he went to Leeds, we saw all these household names like Billy Bremner, Paul Madeley and Joe Jordan, you sort of thought ‘oh, this is quite special’
‘Whenever we went to Blackpool we would sit in the players’ lounge and just got autographs, didn’t we?’
D: ‘They used to play tricks on us but made sure we were comfortable with stuff.’
J: ‘There wasn’t the money then, the difference was we were not aloof to anybody.
‘Dad was not aloof to anyone. I remember the Saturdays, if it was an away game, depending on how far it was, I’m talking late 60s, they were in the First Division then, he’d leave the house at four and five in the morning to go to Bloomfield Road.
‘When it was a home game, we’d get up with mum and Nana Ashurst. We’d play around and dad wouldn’t get out of bed until 10 if he was playing.
‘He’d get up and the butcher’s boy had been and he’d always bring my dad a piece of fillet steak. About half 10/11 he’d get up and have fillet steak and fried eggs.’
D: ‘And chips, sometimes.’
J: ‘Then he’d get dressed, put his Crombie coat and off he’d walk to the ground from Beechfield Avenue. He didn’t go in the car because we’d come in the car later and if he wanted a lift home he’d get in the car with us.
‘And then after the game he used to knock on the window of the changing room - in the old days they’d have little openings - he’d open it because he would change by the window and his head would come out and he’d say ‘I’ll be 10 minutes’.
‘He’d get dressed and he’d come out immaculate. In those days there was nowhere for the players wives really, a little tea room that’s all there was.
‘Before that you had to wait outside with the crowd. He’d come out of the players’ entrance quickly, smartly dressed and he would spend 20 minutes signing autographs.’
D: ‘It’s funny when people talk to me about that they say ‘he was the captain of England but he would sign every single person’s’ and talk to them while he did it. With his pipe in his mouth. I can see him doing it now.’
J: ‘And that was a normal Saturday. Then we’d go home and it was a chicken dinner on a Saturday.
D: ‘I don’t remember that.’
J: ‘Oh yes, the butcher’s boy would bring the chicken with the steak in the morning.
‘Depending on his injuries, he used to leave his feet in knitbone, do you remember?
‘It was a plant we grew in the garden and my mum used to dry it and put hot water in a bowl and he’d put his feet in it.
‘His feet were immaculate. He spent hours oiling his feet.’
D: ‘Even when he was older and ill it used to upset him and we’d trim his nails for him.’
J: ‘He’d wrap cotton wool between his toes because he broke his toes a few times.
‘He played for England against Spain with a broken foot. He had a hairline fracture and they cut half his boot off. It had blacked his white sock and they still beat them 3-1.’
D: ‘He used to clean his boots at home and I can see him doing his studs, originally with the nailed studs but then it graduated to the screw ins. Every bit of his kit was immaculate. Stanley Matthews taught him that preparation and high standards were vital. It is what the fans expect.’
J: ‘That was a big thing, you were not different. I think it must be terrible now to be a child of a professional footballer.
‘I think you get everything in the world but you’re not really sure about the people who attach themselves to you.’
D: ‘I remember going away on holiday with Blackpool, we went to the Pontinental in Torremolinos, three years on the run, organised by Fred Pontin.
‘There was only the Pontinental , and two for other nationalities in entire resort”
J: ‘There was no promenade, just a beach all the way up to Torremolinos centre.’
D: ‘Fred Pontin used to fly out when they were there and he used to come and see them. ‘
J: ‘There was Lawrie McMenemy, all the Chelsea players too, Fred Pontin liked having the footballers there all at once. Alan Ball and Alan Ball senior too. Because they were all together they could let their hair down.’
D: ‘They always played the Germans at football.’
Jimmy the Dad
Both Duncan and John attended Arnold School as children.
In recent years it was knocked down to make way for a new school, later called the Armfield Academy.
Duncan: ‘Dad always kept our feet firmly on the ground. One thing he always taught us was nothing comes for free.
‘You have to work and it’s turned us all into grafters.’
John: ‘When we were at primary school he was there a lot because he only trained half a day. ‘
D: ‘He would pick us up from school because mum would be at the hospital working. She ended up as matron at South Shore Hospital. She worked hard and worked funny shifts at times.’
J: ‘We’d all eat our meals together because that’s what dad believed was right. When he was at Leeds United he would come in at what, 7.30-8pm, no tea before that. No tea ‘til Dad gets in.
D: ‘We could have a snack but no tea. Breakfast was always 8am, we had lunch at school and then tea would be 5.30pm unless dad was late and we would wait until he got in, or we’d wait until mum got in.’
D: ‘Dad was an awful cook.’
J: ‘He was terrible! That’s why Saturday was the only day that was different when he was playing. He’d stay in bed and we used to sit at the table while he ate his fillet steak and eggs.’
D: ‘Mum was always 100 per cent supportive of what Dad did.’
J: ‘There was never a dispute about anything, she’d say ‘you need to be quiet, dad needs his rest, he’s playing this afternoon’, and that was it. If you want to go out go down the bottom of the garden away from everybody.
‘We were not allowed to kick the ball up the drive on a Saturday morning because it was under his bedroom window.
D: ‘He’d come and play football with us though, obviously. Competitive? Oh, horrendous! All three of us are very competitive.’
J: ‘We used to get boxing gloves every Christmas, because he boxed in the army. Dad would kneel down. Me and you would have a proper fight and he’d finish it off - he’d put the gloves over the end of his fingers.
‘And you’d go to hit him hard but he was that fast he’d dodge out of the way and slap you round the side of the head for fun.’
D: ‘We’d be loving it!’
D: ‘He was a very strong disciplinarian.
‘He thought the foundations of life were family, education and having an opportunity to be educated as well as you possibly can, and third one was work.’
J: ‘Education was everything to him. We came home from school, we weren’t allowed out, we’d do our homework and when we got older we’d be doing it til 8pm at night. It didn’t matter if your friends came round.
‘Whatever was on the telly, you didn’t do anything til your homework was done... and he had to check it was done properly.’
D: ‘He would help us...he used to help me a lot because I used to struggle on certain things but thank god he did because it gives a certain structure in life, gives you an ethic to get things right and be a bit of a perfectionist.
‘I think I either had a lazy streak or blocks in my head, but he wouldn’t have it and sat with me until he helped me to understand.’
Jimmy the husband
Like many of their generation, Jimmy and Anne Armfield’s love blossomed on the dancefloor.
They were pupils together at Revoe Primary but it wasn’t until 1954 when they really hit it off – in the Tower Ballroom.
They married in 1958 (her father had died so she was given away by her uncle) with Duncan arriving in 1961.
Anne Ashurst was born in Wigan and was the youngest of four sisters.
The family moved to Blackpool when she was young, settling in Sheppard Street and then Chapel Street.
Duncan said: “They were one unit, they went everywhere together.
“Even when he was ill he still looked after her.
“They got together at the Tower Ballroom and they were taken back there by Look North West, I think.
“They said the dancing brought back the memories from when they were courting.”
Anne is now 84.