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Right Back to the Beginning

Release date: 02nd February, 2004
Publisher: Headline

List Price: 18.99
Our Price: 13.29
You Save: 5.7 (30%)
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Many years have passed since Penguin first published books in paperback format, each of which was available in any colour provided it was orange. Since then, dust jackets have become increasingly obscure and colourful, perhaps deliberately so, as they often succeed in camouflaging mediocre content.

In contrast, Jimmy Armfield's marvellous autobiography is presented in the manner in which it intends to go on: the picture on the front of the book oozes quality.

Two football teams emerge from the tunnel at Wembley prior to the start of the England versus the Rest of the World clash in 1963. Armfield leads the England team, as he did on 14 other occasions, matched stride for stride by his opposing captain, Alfredo di Stefano. Behind the two captains are their respective right-hand men: Bobby Moore and Ferencs Puskas.

There is no evidence of branding or shirt sponsorship and a distinct absence of logos and television cameramen. How different it would be today! A celebration of a century of English football (the reason for the 1963 match) would be previewed ad nauseum for months prior to the big game

Jimmy Armfield was at the peak of his playing career in 1963 having played for the then very fashionable Blackpool since 1954, the club with whom he was to stay until he hung his boots up in 1971. The game depicted on the front cover was one of 43 caps he won for England as a tough tackling, but never dirty, full back.

If the contrast with today's game is evident on the dust jacket, it is even starker on the inside. Midway through the book, Armfield reprints a copy of a letter sent by the FA to Blackpool FC on 26th August 1966. Attached to the letter was a cheque, long cashed, in the amount of £248.75 (the seventy five pence was fifteen shillings in real money), which represented Armfield's pay for being part of England's 1966 World Cup winning squad between 8th and 30th July in the same year.

There was a bonus kitty of £22,000 which was only discussed by a slightly embarrassed Sir Alf Ramsey after the tournament had finished. It was Bobby Moore's suggestion that the money was split 22 ways and so this, together with what Armfield calls a "track suit that never quite fitted" was the England team's reward for lifting football's greatest prize.

There is not a hint of bitterness about Armfield - although he feels that winning medals should have been distributed to all 22 players in the 1966 squad rather than just to the 11 who played in the final.

It would be wrong, however, to describe this book as yet another trip down memory lane because Armfield has had another, equally successful, career since he finished playing. He went into football management and took Leeds United to the European Cup final in 1975. He subsequently became a columnist for the Daily Express and a well-respected commentator and analyst for BBC radio.

Away from football, Armfield has an impressive cv, one which includes roles as a church organist, school governor and NHS Trust director; he was awarded the OBE in 2000 and made a freeman of the borough of Blackpool in 2003.

Armfield's quality has always been at England's disposal which is perhaps why, on two occasions during the 1990's, the FA retained him as a headhunter to find the best man for the England manager's job. After reading 'Right Back in the Beginning', the reader may be left with the feeling that on both occasions, Armfield could have fitted the role perfectly.



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