“In football he was known as ‘Gentleman Jim’ but outside of football he was also ‘Gentleman Jim.’”
Those are the words of AFC Fylde chairman David Haythornthwaite who will remember family friend Jimmy Armfield not just for his exploits on the pitch but more for his life off it .
Above all when he helped Haythornthwaite’s parents at a time when they were struggling through the same disease that saw Armfield pass away on Monday, aged 82.
And Fylde owner Haythornthwaite counted Armfield as a family friend as his father Alan went to Arnold School with the footballer.
He said: “It wasn’t necessarily football, which he will mainly be remembered for but the kindness that he showed to my mother Pat and father Alan when they were both struggling through cancer.
“In football he was known as ‘Gentleman Jim’ but outside of football he was also Gentleman Jim.
“Him and my dad were best friends.
“He was always at my dad’s house all the time, he was a very close family friend was Jimmy.
“They were both Old Arnoldians. Jimmy had a lot of loves and one of them was school, Arnold School, and of course my dad was also a big Blackpool fan which he had been all of his life.
“He passed away three or four years ago now.
“They became friends through Arnold and the Old Arnoldians.
“My grandfather taught Jimmy at school and obviously he knew my grandfather and became friends with my father.
“Jimmy was often at our house; my parents both died of cancer and Jimmy was sort of around everyday seeing my mum and dad during those difficult times.
“He was a very close family friend; obviously through that I knew Jimmy pretty well myself and that is one of the reasons why he was a patron of the St George’s Day festival that I run in Lytham.
“I have very close family connections with the Armfield family.
“One of his first loves was his family and he was a very big church man, he played the organ and he will be very much so missed.
“He didn’t have a bad word about anyone.
“It was a sad day because you don’t get to say your goodbyes which a lot of people would have liked to have done.
“I knew he was very ill and I’d spoken to him about six or seven weeks ago; in actual fact I was trying to get him down to Fylde to watch a game, to get him out of the house.”
Now AFC Fylde will be one of the first clubs to pay tribute to Armfield as they host Maidstone United in the National League tonight.
Haythornthwaite said: “We will have a minute’s applause. Everybody will be wearing black armbands and we will probably be one of the first teams to pay our respects.
“It is not just Blackpool but the whole of England, never mind the whole of the Fylde, everyone knew him.
“He is a Fylde coast legend, we have a picture of him in the hallway here at the football club when he was a very young man under a sign saying Fylde legend.
“Him and Billy Beaumont, they transcend far more than that.”