As David Beckham
prepares to pocket £1 million a week with LA Galaxy, it's hard to imagine
the time when footballers earned a maximum £20 weekly wage. Former England
captain Jimmy Armfield spent his whole career at first division Blackpool,
from 1954-71. Now 71 and a Five Live pundit, he recalls the days when top
footballers weren't celebs and some even took on a second job...
These days, players move clubs for colossal amounts and for a better deal.
But for most of my career there was no point because, up to 1961, there
was a wage cap and we could only earn 20 quid a week. Then the
players' union campaigned and, within a year, it had doubled to £40. I
thought I was a millionaire!
I may have been the England captain but I was still on just £40 a week.
I once asked my manager why my salary dipped to £14 in the close season,
when my team-mate Stanley Matthews earned the same all year.
"He's a better player than you," was the reply.
"Not in summer he isn't," I said.
Players didn't have the power they do
today. When I asked for a couple of complementary tickets for my family,
the manager refused, saying: "If they won't pay to see you, who will?"
I wanted to make some more money if I could, so I trained as a journalist
at my local paper. I did that three or four afternoons a week and worked
right through the time I was England captain. I didn't have time for
much else and we never had the money to gamble as they do now.
None of us drank much either. A few went to local pubs or to dinner and a
dance. If there was a Saturday game and we'd won, I'd perhaps go out for a
We did the same amount of training as now but it was nothing for us to
play Saturday, Wednesday and Saturday. At Christmas and Easter, we'd often
play three games in four days.
And we watched what we ate before a game even then. It'd be boiled
chicken, a steak or maybe scrambled eggs. But I must admit that three or
four of the lads on the team smoked and I was known to smoke a pipe
When I started there were no floodlights, no shirt sponsors, no motorways,
no TV football, no European Cup and no away kit.
For the 1962 World Cup in Chile, we stayed in a mining camp in the Andes
for two weeks, who became the adjusted to the altitude.
It makes me chuckle when I see all the computer games, videos and suchlike
that the England lads take with them now. We didn't even have a TV.
Unlike David Beckham and most of the top stars today, I only did one
advert. It was for Gola boots and I got £30. They just took my picture
with the boots on.
There was no way I ever considered myself to be a celebrity. To my
knowledge, there were never women throwing themselves at the players as
they do now. It was a different, more local ball game.
When I first started as a professional, I cycled to the ground on my bike.
And sometimes on a Saturday I'd walk there and then walk home with my pals
after the match.
When I first got married, my wife Anne and I lived in a two-bed,
end-of-terrace house. The first car I had was a little Morris Minor and
when I was England captain, I was driving a Hillman Minx. But occasionally
I'd still use public transport.
At Blackpool, we were a good side but we still knew all the fans. There
was nothing really glamorous about our lives. When I first started
playing, football wasn't on TV. So outside the town I wouldn't expect
people to recognise me.
But David Beckham can only be a man of his time. I have never seen anyone
in the game with the profile he has and I think he knows this move to the
US is the right one for him. He's obviously a good family man and is doing
what he thinks is best for him, his wife and children.
I'm never envious of players earning a lot of money - in football you can
go on the field and get injured in the first minute and that's your career
So I say good luck - they're entitled to their money. They are the ones
who make it all happen.
This interview appeared in
the Daily Mirror, London - 16th January 2007.