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Jimmy Armfield. Remembered

RIP Jimmy. The one and only positive memory in an otherwise (almost) forgettable day!

22 January 2018

Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock
Jimmy Armfield (Manager) with Tony Dunne (Bolton Wanderers)

Back in the late 60s, my college mate Dave persuaded me that, as we were only 50 miles from London, we really ought travel the short distance and watch a game. I know what you're thinking - Spurs - Chelsea - Arsenal - West Ham .....

The problem with the plan was that it would cost fifteen shillings return on one of the fast, electric, efficient, comfortable and regular trains, which was 15 shillings too much if you were on a student grant (keep quiet at the back you young-uns - we were not allowed to take on debt!). So Dave decided that instead of the 200 yards stroll to the station, we should hike a couple of miles to the A5, where we would soon hitch a ride to the capital, FREE!

Even in those days, the upside of sharing a car with a couple of strapping 20 year olds was a pleasure the vast majority of car drivers were none-too-keen on, so the rapid transit to the smoke took some time to get off the ground. Fortunately, along came a businessman in a nice car, and offered us a lift as far as east London. Bit off the intended route, but a lift into London from the east would surely be better than hanging about watching cars speed past 2 miles from college? And a nice, fast, free journey it was too. By now of course, the carefully planned timetable was falling alarmingly behind schedule, so Nice Chap dropped us off near some station or other possibly where the Olympic Village now stands, and advised us to go to Liverpool Street by train. That caused a bit of a dent in the financial planning for the day, but the slow train to Liverpool Street it was. Now, I don't know how it had happened, but we seem to have settled on Charlton or Crystal Palace rather than any of the more fashionable clubs (maybe, with our planning they were all playing away) for some unknown and long-forgotten reason, which involved more riding the rails and more precious cash out. Whoever the home team were, they were playing Blackpool, and Jimmy Armfield. Dare I say, as neither team was called Grimsby, it was all a bit of a bore, and whichever side won wasn't of any great interest. Jimmy Armfield was the only highlight, being quite clearly in a different class to the other 21 players on show, so I spent most of my time admiring his play.

Once the referee had relieved us of the monotony, it was back to central London, and then aim for the A5 to thumb back to college. As the A5 starts as the Edgeware Road, that's where we were headed. Another precious two shillings out of the kitty, but quite frankly we were impressed by the huge distance we got for that. We got off at the end of the line, and it was only when a too-sharp-eyed ticket collector called us back that we found out Edgeware Road, and Edgeware were not the same station, and weren't even within miles of one another. More cash out. Of course, by this time, we were already behind the 15 shilling rail fare, and could have been back at college hours earlier having travelled in comfort. It was rapidly turning into one of those dreams where you can never escape, and never reach your destination.

And now it was raining.

The resulting hitch was rather long - who in their right minds wants to pick up two strapping youths, wet through, on a dark night? Eventually, some kind person took pity on us, and somehow we managed to get on the right side of Luton. But in the countryside, and we didn't have a clue where we were. More hitching, and more failure. After several hours, along came a bus! We scraped the last of our cash together, boarded the bus, and about midnight were dropped off with just a mile or two to walk back, soaking wet, skint, and determined NEVER to hitch hike ever again. A lesson I have remembered for the last 50 years.

But at least we saw Jimmy Armfield.

RIP Jimmy. The one and only positive memory in an otherwise (almost) forgettable day!


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