It’s half-time in the Championship clash between Blackpool and Colchester and Blackpool legend Jimmy Armfield is invited onto the field to make the half-time draw. The interval is nearly over before Jimmy is able to even begin making the draw. The time has been consumed by applause. Wave after wave rolling down the North and West Stands. Applause in honour of the former England captain. 568 appearances for one club. Loyalty and dedication to the core. Fighting illness. And now it’s payback time.
Payback from those who were witness to his loyalty. And those who know of it. It’s recognition not just of the player. Sure, that’s there in abundance. It’s also recognition of the qualities he championed. That he stood for. And believed in.
It’s a moment when the player and the fans are as one. The one club player. And the one club fans. When the player represents the fans values on the pitch. They can’t play. But he can. And does so in a way to make the fans proud. It should be the aim and goal of every player.
When a player represents the games best values, then people remember you. Your name lives on beyond your life time. About the code by which you lived by. The manner in which you played the game. What you would not do. What you weren’t lured by. The rules you would not break.
It’s the reminder that no one is bigger than the game. That respect for the game, it’s rules, officials and players is the code of honour of the greats who leave their mark on the game’s history. They are great because they loved the game in such a way that they would not defile it with acts of selfishness and deceit.
That is why Jimmy Armfield received continuous applause. Not just because of what he was. But because of what he wasn’t.