Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Red Rose Football Blog (Number 36)


                        Number 36                                                               June 27 2017

Red Rose County Footballing Legends (Number 9)

Jimmy Armfield (Blackpool)

One club men such as Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher are the last of the genre, but for many years they were common place in the Football League. One such player was Jimmy Armfield. He was born in Denton, close to Manchester, but was evacuated to Blackpool as a 6 year old during the war. He was re-united with his family who relocated in the seaside resort, there being spotted by the then manager as one for the future. He made his debut in 1954 as a 19 year old, part of the Matthews/Mortensen side and with his pace, his ball skills, tenacity and defensive intelligence; he soon became one of the best right backs in the land. He was the first attacking full back I ever remember seeing. The closest he came to honours for the Tangerines was runners-up spot to the Busby Babes in 1956, but by 1959 he had become a regular in the England side, captaining them on 15 occasions. In total he gained 43 caps and was voted the best right back in the world following the 1962 World Cup in Chile. Unfortunately an injury in the period before the 1966 tournament enabled George Cohen to grab the number 2 shirt and although in the 22, Armfield never featured in any of the games; substitutes not being allowed in those days of course. Blackpool struggled in the late 60s, being relegated in 1967 but Jimmy’s experience helped them back into the top division in 1970. They fell back the following season when the right back played his 569th and final game. Intelligent and with a sky high status in the game, it was no surprise when Bolton Wanderers invited him to manage soon after retiring. He guided them to the 3rd Division Championship in 1973 and a year later, the high-flying Leeds United offered him the manager’s post after the hiatus caused by Brian Clough’s infamous 40 days in charge. The Yorkshire side were unfortunate to narrowly lose the final of the 1975 European Cup to Bayern Munich but after 4 good seasons at Elland Road, he took up the pen, writing regularly on football for the Daily Express and later commentating for Radio 5Live for many years. An OBE, CBE and the title of High Sheriff of Lancashire followed and, still much loved in Blackpool where his statue adorns the street outside Bloomfield Road, he has recently battled cancer. Respected throughout the game, he is a true Red Rose footballing legend.  

Quiz of the Week (Answers at the foot of the Blog)

                  Each question has a Red Rose County club connection

1                    The U/20 World Cup, which saw an England squad packed with Everton youngsters triumph a few weeks ago, was hosted by which country?

2                    Larry Lloyd won a 1st Division winner’s medal with Liverpool in 1973 and then a second one with which other club several years later?

Larry Lloyd; hard man centre half signed by Bill Shankly from Bristol Rovers

3                    Which Scotsman scored a hat-trick of headers for Everton v Bolton in 1997?

4                    Who has been the only Scotsman to score 2 Premier league hat-tricks, doing so for Blackburn Rovers in 1997 and 1998?   

5                    Who was the former Welsh manager who played 139 times for Bolton Wanderers between 2004 and 2008?

6                    Who, having joined Manchester City in July 2010, is the only current City player to have notched up 300 1st team appearances for the club?

7                    Who kept goal for Manchester United between 1966 and 1979, starting on 539 occasions; a record for an Old Trafford keeper?

8                    Who signed for Ipswich Town last week but in 2014 and 2015, was Preston North End’s leading goal scorer?

9                    Burnley striker Sam Vokes was signed by the Clarets from which club in 2012?

Sam Vokes; has proved to be a shrewd signing for Burnley

10                Ian Henderson scored 15 league goals for which Red Rose League 1 club in the 2016-17 season?

Post Weekend Musings

Many of us will remember only too well the shocking scenes at the 1989 semi-final at Hillsborough where 96 football supporters lost their lives as the Liverpool v Notts Forest game kicked off. As we are seeing with the Grenfell Towers tragedy, the authorities only seem to wake up and act when it is too late and this certainly happened 28 years ago when Lord Justice Taylor produced his report within 4 months; a report which changed the face of English football and its grounds. Had it been set in motion several years before when, for all sorts of reasons, everyone knew that soccer stadia were decidedly unsafe places, the majority of the 96 would still be alive. Amongst a raft of recommendations, the honourable judge stated that crash barriers and fences must go and that spectators must all have ticketed seats. For once the various authorities acted in unison and football became a game to watch whilst seated. From its very formation in the 1880s, only the “posh” sat down at games. The grounds were mainly terraced and in all of the countless games I saw prior to 1989, I cannot remember occupying a seat in the stands at Blackburn Rovers. The only time I was seated was as a little boy when I actually sat on a crash barrier supported by my dad or in front of the wall on tiny benches, literally feet away from the players. For the Rovers v Burnley 6th Round replay in 1960, I actually sat on the grass along with hundreds of boys and when they were taking long throws, we somehow had to crawl to one side to enable the thrower to take his a run up. The true spectators stood and it produced hairy moments. I remember regularly watching Leeds United at Elland Road in the 60s when I was a student in the city. When there was a goal or a near miss, those at the back surged forward and your body was propelled in whichever direction. As the crowd settled, you made your way back to meet up with your mates who could have relocated 10 yards away from you. All this has disappeared following the Taylor Report and football is more family orientated, safer for women and children. I have to say however that I much prefer to stand when watching a game. When I watch Non-League, Schoolboy or Boys League matches, I feel more comfortable and enjoy the freedom of movement that it gives, but being realistic, I am not sure that I could cope with the types of scrum that I encountered in Leeds at my current age. The reason why I mention this is that Shrewsbury Town have applied to install “safe standing areas” at their modern Greenhous Meadow ground. Standing was allowed in the Taylor Report for clubs in League 1 and 2 and below, but any ground constructed after 1994 had to follow Taylor legislation. Apparently Glasgow Celtic were given permission to install a 2,000 plus standing area last season and reports say that it is safe and improves the atmosphere at the game. Shrewsbury Town believe that it encourages more singing and vocal support which is probably true and they are not talking about wide open terraces. The expression railed seats is being used and of course many away fans in particular do stand illegally for the full 90 minutes in front of their seats, but the authorities have to think carefully before decisions are made. The game is now safer and fortunately the images from Hillsborough seem from another age. The thought of standing may rekindle my love of nostalgia but “safe rather than sorry” ought to be the mantra for our current football and local authority administrators.

                                         The Kop at Anfield in 1983, pre the Taylor report.

According to legend, it was impossible to reach a toilet during the game so the pocket of the fellow in front would suffice; it was very much a male dominated environment

Old Trafford as it is now, post Taylor report

Seated, structured and safe, with ease of access to clean toilets, bars, food outlets and TV screens. It is appropriate for the whole family, whatever their needs.

What will constitute success for our Red Rose clubs in 2017-18?

It seems like only last week that we were hailing the triumphs or bemoaning the disasters of our clubs as the 2016-17 season drew to a close but here we are in late June, awaiting the results of the Champions’ League 1st qualifying round. Nothing of interest to the Red Rose clubs yet but the players could well be back in training next Monday at the start of a new adventure. We all begin with optimism but this has to be mixed with realistic expectancy and this is what I have tried to do below regarding our Tier 1 to Tier 6 clubs. Last season was largely disappointing in the North West. London took control of the major prizes and although United achieved a double of sorts, it was less than expected from a club with its financial clout and world-wide magnitude. The Championship was a disaster with both Wigan and Blackburn being relegated and only the promotions of Bolton and Blackpool relieved the gloom lower down the pyramid; the exception perhaps being the exploits of the unheralded Fleetwood Town. In the non-league world, AFC Fylde continued to amaze and are now in Tier 5, but can 2017-18 bring back the glory to enhance our football heritage?

Success Criteria
Manchester City
It has to be Champions for Guardiola. No excuses this time
Top 3 will be seen as progress for Jürgen Klopp’s side
Manchester United
No excuses for Mourinho this time. Top 2 will be the aim.
Progress will be to break into the Top 6 for Ronald Koeman
It can only be survival once again for the over-achieving Clarets
Preston North End
On the current budget,  a Play-Off place will be seen as progress
Bolton Wanderers
It has to be consolidation with a mid-table position their goal
Blackburn Rovers
Anything less than a Play-Off spot will be seen as a disaster
Wigan Athletic
Mid-table and consolidation will be Paul Cook’s aim
Fleetwood Town
As lightning does not strike twice, mid-table consolidation
Another Top 10 finish will be seen as a success at Spotland
Oldham Athletic
John Sheridan will be looking at mid-table as progression
On their budget, the Shakers will accept anything 20th or above
With all the off-field problems, they will be looking at survival
Accrington Stanley
A look at the Play-Offs will be John Coleman’s goal this season
Anything safe will be a bonus with their off-field problems
After last season, a slight progression will be the Play-Offs
AFC Fylde
In spite of moving up a level, the Play-Offs will be in their sights
The club has to consolidate for a season, so survival is vital
With their budget, promotion will be their only goal
They will do well to reach the Play-offs yet again
Curzon Ashton
This over-achieving club will be happy to finish mid-table yet again
FC Utd of Manchester
For this sleeping giant, it must be the Play-Offs

Gazing at the picture in Tiers 7-10, can Warrington Town continue to improve and make the Northern Prem Play-Offs and how will the newly promoted Lancaster City fare? Similarly can Atherton Collieries continue their form up in Tier 8 and is it time for Clitheroe to leave their comfort zone and battle for honours? In the North West Counties League, all eyes will be on City Of Liverpool. Can they make it 2 promotions on the bounce in only their 2nd ever season but will their landlords at Bootle FC put them in their place? Watch this space.

Review of the EFL League 1, 2016-17

A quartet of Greater Manchester clubs headed the Red Rose contingent in League 1 last season with a solitary Lancashire club adding to the number. All five found themselves in either a promotion or relegation battle, with the Trotters returning to the Championship. Bolton Wanderers were always favourites to go back straight back up. In spite of the unseemly Board Room wrangling and threats of folding, they are still a big club with a substantial ground and they brought in the experienced Phil Parkinson from Bradford City to steer them away from troubled waters. They were in the top 3 for virtually the whole of the season in spite of selling Zach Clough their best player, finally finishing comfortably behind Sheffield United in the second promotion place. Fleetwood Town were the season’s shock side. Miraculously sustaining winning form on measly gates which averaged out at 3,272, they pushed the top 3 every inch of the way before having to finish in a club record 4th place in Tier 3. Uwe Rosler was only appointed manager a week before the season commenced but he quickly found the winning formula for the players at his disposal. Tight at the back, fast to break forward, they were involved in the closest of close Play-Off semi-finals. They lost 1-0 at Bradford City and try as they might, they could only manage a goalless draw at Highbury Stadium in the 2nd leg. Conor McLaughlin took his tally of Northern Ireland caps into the mid-20s and he is now a regular fixture in the Michael O’Neill’s side. The words “Rochdale FC” and “promotion” are rarely found in the same sentence, particularly promotion to the Championship but Keith Hill’s men gave it their best shot, finally finishing in 9th place, 4 points adrift of the Play-Offs. The manager certainly has made Spotland into something of a fortress and no side relished a trip to the western Pennines to face “The Dale”. The other two Greater Manchester clubs spent the majority of the season facing relegation. Oldham Athletic were in their 20th year of consecutive League 1 football, something of a record below the Premier League these days, but they hovered on the brink for much of the year. They failed to win a game for almost 2 months but the return of John Sheridan as manager was the catalyst for much improved defensive performances. They only conceded 6 goals in their last 15 matches, sufficient to escape relegation by 4 points and 4 league positions. Bury made a fine start under David Flitcroft and they won all 5 league matches in September, including a 3-1 away win at the newly relegated Milton Keynes. Unfortunately for Flitcroft, the good run came to an abrupt end as they embarked on a 12 game losing spree which culminated in the manager being sacked. Chris Brass steadied the ship but it was only when Lee Clark arrived from Kilmarnock that safety was assured by 1 point. Fortunately they had James Vaughan’s 24 goals to thank for pulling off a rescue act. Bolton have left for pastures new but the Red Rose clubs will increase to 6 this season as Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic drop down from the Championship.

Quiz Answers

1 South Korea, 2 Nottingham Forest, 3 Duncan Ferguson, 4 Kevin Gallagher, 5 Gary Speed, 6 David Silva, 7 Alex Stepney, 8 Joe Garner, 9 Wolverhampton Wanderers, 10 Rochdale FC.   

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