Ian Holloway led the birthday tributes to Jimmy Armfield today, insisting “the world is a better place with him in it.”
The former Blackpool boss joined Armfield in Seasiders folklore by leading the club to the Premier League in 2010, and got to know to know the 80-year-old well during his time at Bloomfield Road.
And he jumped at the chance to pay tribute when asked by The Gazette.
“He’s a wonderful man, a true gentleman,” said Holloway.
“What he does for Blackpool, along with his wife Anne, as a town and what his career did speaks volumes about the man.
“The world is a much better place with him in it, put it that way.”
Holloway would often speak to Armfield for advice during his three-and-half-years in charge at Bloomfield Road, turning to his vast footballing knowledge.
But it was a moment after the 2010 win at Wembley which Holloway remembers most fondly.
He said: “I’ll always remember on the bus going back to the town hall with Jimmy after promotion was special.
“He just has so much wisdom, how he makes you realise things in a quiet way.
“I have a picture of me with Jimmy and the goalscorers from the play-off final, Charlie Adam, Brett Ormerod and Gary Taylor-Fletcher, it means a lot to me.
“I hear him on the radio even now and he talks so much sense.” While Armfield is remembered by most for his footballing abilities, it’s another performing art which Holloway said made him smile.
“Jimmy is incredible on the organ,” he said.“One day me and my wife Kim were out with Jimmy and he started playing the organ. We asked him how he learnt, and he casually said ‘One day the person who was supposed to play at the church was ill, so I just stepped in’ it was incredible.
“But that probably sums Jim up, he could probably do anything.
“I wish him a very happy birthday, it’s a real pleasure to know him.
“When you think of Blackpool, you think of Jimmy Armfield.”
Professional Footballers Association boss Gordon Taylor has described Jimmy Armfield as a ‘living legend and footballing icon’. He said: “He’s known as ‘Our Jim’ here at the PFA, we think so highly of him,” said the 70-year-old who made more than 500 appearances during his own playing career.
“I’ve been lucky enough to know Jimmy for a very long time, both as a player and since retirement.
“The fact he still works on the BBC, along with all his community work is astonishing really and a real credit to him.
“He’s a living legend, a footballing icon and above all the perfect gentleman.
“I really can’t speak highly of him enough.
“The mark of the man was shown in the way he dealt with his cancer scare, with such courage.
“He was an uplifting inspiration for so many who have suffered with the illness.”
Armfield remains a coaching Technical Consultant at the PFA and is a regular at their Manchester offices.
And while his commitments aren’t what they used to be, Taylor says his input his hugely valued by all.
He added: “He remains heavily involved at the PFA, we are luckily to have him.
“His experience, knowledge and guidance is invaluable to us all.”
Armfield has a stand as a statue in his honour at Bloomfield Road, where supporters hold him in the highest regard.
And Glenn Bowley, who played a huge part in raising money for the statue while chairman of Blackpool Supporters Association, was full of praise.
He said: “Jimmy’s love and passion for all things tangerine and Blackpool FC is as strong now at 80 years old as it was when he made his debut for the club over 60 years ago.
“He is a true hero, a man who is respected throughout the footballing world for his incredible knowledge and views on the game. It’s not just football though, his work for the town has been incredible and shows no signs of slowing down either.
“What I love about Jimmy though is that he gets football fans. He knows that the game is for the fans, that they are the people that matter, especially Blackpool fans.
“He shares the agony and pain of losing but saviours the victories and successes of winning. There was no prouder man than Jimmy on May 22nd 2010.
“if you look up the word legend in the dictionary it should say… Jimmy Armfield. Happy Birthday Jimmy!”