Anglican Bishops past and present from the Diocese of Blackburn have come together to pay tribute to football legend and committed Christian, Jimmy Armfield CBE, who died at the weekend.
As well as being a former Blackpool and England footballer, manager, broadcaster and High Sheriff of Lancashire, Jimmy Armfield was also an active member of his local church (St Peter’s in Blackpool) where he was organist and choirmaster as well as treasurer. In 2001 Jimmy also became a lay Canon of Blackburn Cathedral.
Current Diocesan Bishop, Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, The Bishop of Blackburn, said: “I am very sorry to hear of the death of the legendary Jimmy Armfield.
“He has been a greater supporter of The Church of England in Lancashire and especially his local church where he played the organ for many years. Jimmy had an astonishing career and he was very committed as a Christian. So, at this difficult time we join with, and pray for, Jimmy’s family and the congregation of Blackpool St Peter in mourning his death.”
The retired Bishop of Blackburn (2004-2012) Rt Rev. Nicholas Reade, knew Jimmy well. He said: “I am so sad today – Jimmy Armfield was one of the first people to welcome me to the Diocese when I arrived in 2004 and I will always remember his warm smile and warm handshake; his hospitality and generosity.
“His Christian faith was very important to him and helped him through the difficult times as well as the good times.”
The recently-retired Bishop of Lancaster (2006-2017) Rt Rev. Geoff Pearson had also known Jimmy for many years.
A huge football fan, in 2016 Bishop Geoff described Jimmy in his regular Lancaster Guardian column as his ‘hero’.
And speaking today, Bishop Geoff remembered meeting his hero for the first time after becoming Bishop saying: “He introduced himself to me saying ‘hello, I’m Jimmy Armfield’ – no airs and graces, just an ordinary bloke. I replied ‘THE Jimmy Armfield?’. As a football fan it was an exciting moment!
“In the years that followed I got to know him well and we kept in touch after I retired. Jimmy was a great football man of course, but there were so many other dimensions to him … and then there was his voice. The warmth of that voice welcomed me to the Diocese; while on many BBC radio commentaries it simply became synonymous with football.
“Away from his beloved game he kept his feet on the ground through his involvement with his local church in Blackpool. I will miss him greatly.”
Meanwhile the current Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev. Philip North, another massive football fan, is also mourning the loss of one of football’s all-time greats today.
Bishop Philip said: “I remember hearing about the exploits of Jimmy Armfield as a young football fan and it was a real pleasure to meet the man in real life. I couldn’t believe such a famous sportsman could be found playing the organ regularly in one of our churches.
“He easily moved between the world of the church and the world of football and served God in any way he could.”