Armfield on Blackpool’s ‘dream’ season

Blackpool legend Jimmy Armfield
Blackpool legend Jimmy Armfield
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Blackpool legend Jimmy Armfield believes the success of the Seasiders this season is proof dreams can come true for small clubs.

The Lancashire outfit were expected to be relegated from the Championship last year but instead won promotion to the Barclays Premier League.

Although results have been hard to come by in recent weeks, the Tangerines have generally had a superb season - their first in the top flight for 39 years - and still have a good chance of survival.

Former England captain Armfield, who retired after Blackpool were relegated from the old First Division in 1971, told Press Association Sport: “Last year we shocked people by getting into the Premier League, so let’s hope we can shock people again by staying in the Premier League.

“If you asked most people in football at the start of the season, they wouldn’t have given Blackpool a prayer.

“But they have beaten some of the best teams in the league and it is possible they could just do it.

“It has been a great season, no matter what happens, but it will be an even greater year if they survive. That would be fantastic.

“They have given hope to a lot of clubs who think they’ll never get in the Premier League.

“It obviously can be done and they have done it without spending a lot of money.

“It must be a little bit galling for some of the bigger clubs lower down, who are out of the Premier League and getting 25-30,000 regularly, to see a team like Blackpool, who averaged 8,600 last year, up there. It’s astonishing really.”

Blackpool, under their charismatic manager Ian Holloway, have captured the imagination with their attacking and fearless style of play.

Doubts over their top-flight viability after heavy early-season losses to Arsenal and Chelsea were dispelled by some great performances, including two wins over Liverpool.

Last week’s fine win against Tottenham was undone by a thrashing at struggling Wolves at the weekend but Holloway’s side are still four points above the relegation zone with 10 games remaining.

Chelsea are the next visitors on Monday and Armfield said: “I was reading in the paper the other day that one of the players from Chelsea who is coming here this weekend is on £130,000 per week.

“That is more than the whole of the Blackpool squad put together.

“It is an incredible scenario when you think about it.

“But Blackpool as a club have endeared themselves to the rest of the country and Ian Holloway has been the talisman everyone has related to.

“I may be going a bit over the top, but I think Blackpool are everyone’s second favourite team.

“I think that is what they have become and I think most people are hoping they can survive.

“Whenever Blackpool play, because they just attack, there is always goals and that is what people come to watch - excitement.”

Armfield, 75, who spent his entire playing career at Blackpool and still lives in the town, is a familiar voice in the country as a long-serving radio reporter and pundit for the BBC.

He was forced off the airwaves while he underwent treatment for cancer in 2007 but has since enjoyed good health.

Armfield said: “I am a lot better, my health is quite good.

“I still go to the hospital every so often but generally I am doing well.

“And I will feel a lot better as well if we can survive in the Premier League.”