‘Dad wore number two but to us he was number one’

Tributes to Blackpool's favourite son
Tributes to Blackpool's favourite son
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Mourners bid their final farewell to Jimmy Armfield as a packed church was treated to a medley of I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside, the Match of the Day theme and the music to BBC’s sports report.

More than 200 family, friends and figures from the world of football filled the pews at St Peter’s Church on Lytham Road.

And despite the solemn tributes to Jimmy’s life and career, many shared a smile as the church pipe organ – which the Pool legend had so often played – played tunes seldom heard in a place of worship.

The emotional tributes were led by Jimmy’s sons Duncan and John.

John said: “Losing dad is one of the most difficult things I have gone through.

“As I stand here today, I realise how fortunate I was to have him as my dad.”

Choking back tears, he continued: “It is through his example I learned to be the dad, husband and person I am today.

“I think everyone here would say that somehow, in some way, he impacted on their lives in a positive way.”

Duncan said: “Many of the messages we have received have said he was like a second dad to them and his random acts of kindness touched so many lives.

“He saw being rich not in terms of how much money people have, but in so many other way such as spending time with his family and friends and work colleagues and in being happy and fulfilled, in helping others and being lucky enough to do something he loved.

“He was a modest man who was showered with awards but they never went to his head.

“He rang me one day and I could hardly hear him for traffic noise and people talking. I asked him to speak up and in a joyful voice he told me he had been awarded the CBE.

“I congratulated him on his news and said how proud I was of him. When I asked him where he was as I could hardly hear him he said ‘I’m at the bus stop on Highfield Road.

“He was waiting for the bus to take him to church to practice the organ. He said ‘I’ve got my bus pass now’.”

Continuing the tribute, John said: “Dad always wore the number 2 shirt but to us he was always number one.”

Sobbing, he added: “As you can tell, I really loved my dad.”

Jimmy’s grandchildren James, Tom, Nick and Hannah, read Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ in tribute to their grandad.

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association led the football world’s tribute to Jimmy.

He said: “Jimmy’s was a life well lived and he was certainly well loved.

“There is a phrase don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened and that’s how we must remember Jimmy.

“I saw the Tower lit up in Jimmy’s honour and it was such a magnificent gesture.

“I thought, if Jimmy knows that he will be absolutely thrilled to bits.”

Hymns sung by the congregation included the Lord is My Shepherd, Jerusalem and the song sung at every FA Cup Final – Abide with Me.

If by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;

If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And - which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!