TRIBUTES have been paid to Jimmy Armfield, the former England captain who helped re-shape Bolton Wanderers as manager in the early seventies.

It was confirmed this morning that Armfield had passed away aged 82 at a hospice near Poulton le Fylde following a battle with cancer.

Armfield, who played a record 627 times for Blackpool, took up the job at Burnden Park on May 19, 1971 following the Whites’ relegation to the old Third Division for the first time in the club’s history.

Then aged 36, the former England international’s arrival was considered quite a footballing coup.

Armfield captained England 15 times and had been acclaimed as the best right-back on the planet after the World Cup in Chile in 1962. But he had not played for his country for a year before the 1966 finals because of a groin injury. He was recalled by Sir Alf Ramsey for the competition but cracked a toe playing against Finland in one of the early warm-up games. The back four then remained unchanged, leaving Armfield without a winner’s medal because he did not play in the final. That was eventually corrected by FIFA in 2009 when they issued medals to all 11 reserves.

His arrival at Burnden was considering something of a football coup.

He undertook a swift rebuilding process at Wanderers under a tight budget but one of his most memorable acts was to restore the traditional kit of white shirts and navy shorts, discarding the all-white kit which had been used the season before.

One of the players who followed Armfield from Bloomfield Road was Peter Nicholson, signed for £4,000 he would go on to represent Wanderers for another 11 years.

“Jimmy was Mr Blackpool, that’s what they called him, and when he agreed to take the Bolton job I was primed as his successor. I was next in line,” Nicholson recalled.

“But he turned around to me and said ‘I want to take you to Bolton’ and sold the club to me. He loved the place, the history, the tradition and the rivalry they had with Blackpool.

“He ended up taking me, Graham Rowe and Henry Mowbray over there and the rest was history.

“It was the first time the club had ever been in the Third Division but he got us organised, got things his way and made a good team out of us.

“He was my mentor but he didn’t really coach you in the same way they do today. You just stood back, watched him play and took notes.”

Armfield missed out on promotion in his first season, Wanderers finishing seventh behind champions Aston Villa, but the team had shown signs of promise conceding just 41 goals – the best record since 1925.

Bolton also knocked Manchester City out of the League Cup with a glorious 3-0 victory, courtesy of Garry Jones’ hat-trick in front of more than 42,000 at Burnden Park.

The following season Wanderers got it right, lifting the championship trophy with room to spare.

One of the younger players pushed into the limelight at the time was defender Paul Jones, who had taken over from the long-serving John Hulme.

Jones played in every game of the 72/73 title win and was eventually regarded as one of the best defenders ever produced by the club, helping Wanderers return to the top flight under Ian Greaves in 1977/78.

“Jimmy was one of the kindest, most honest blokes you could ever wish to meet,” Jones told The Bolton News. “He got us together, fostered that ‘one for all’ spirit but I can’t remember him even getting angry. He didn’t swear once the whole time I played for him, and you’d never imagine that of a manager these days.

“He commanded respect because of what he’d done in the game. The group didn’t give him many problems but if there was something to be sorted it would be done in his office, behind closed doors, with nothing coming out into the press.

“What he did for Bolton at that time possibly doesn’t get the recognition it should.

“Nat Lofthouse gave me my debut but it was Jim who really brought me and a few others on.

“Jimmy started what Ian Greaves finished off. Those two men together created that whole era in the late seventies where we had a bit of success and were a decent side.

“He was a pleasure to work for, and he’ll be sadly missed.”

Armfield took charge of one full season in the Second Division with Wanderers and led the club to a respectable 11th placed finish.

Once again the goals of John Byrom proved useful, as it turned out in Bolton’s first-ever Sunday game, a 3-2 victory over Stoke City.

Armfield’s services were in high demand, however, and though Bolton’s fans did their best to keep him at Burnden – compiling a petition at one point to prevent him leaving for Blackpool – the offers kept coming.

An approach from First Division Everton was rejected in 1974 before Leeds United asked him to succeed Brian Clough, following his ill-fated 44-days in charge.

Armfield spent four years at Elland Road before moving into journalism, both as a writer and BBC pundit.

“When he got offered the Leeds job I don’t suppose he could have said no, and he went on to do a great job there,” said Nicholson. “When you look at the short time he did spend as a manager it was very successful but he made a good job of radio. He spoke common sense and he was so knowledgeable.”