Death of a Legend - Billy Ayre 1952-2002
Feature by INOIT
Updated Monday, 16th April 2012
Ten years ago was a sad day for all Blackpool football folk to learn that their popular former manager Billy Ayre had died at his home in Southport from the cancer that he was so bravely fighting.
16th April 2002 - A SAD DAY FOR BLACKPOOL:
DEATH OF A LEGEND - BILLY AYRE 1952-2002
Billy was born in Crookhill in the north east on 7 May 1952 and his first steps into senior football were taken with non-league Scarborough and he continued his teaching profession while he made his way in the game. His performances as an uncompromising defender earned him the attention of League scouts and in August 1977 he joined Hartlepool United where he went on to play 141 League games and score 27 goals.
A transfer to Halifax Town materialised in January 1981 and he had the first of two playing spells at The Shay. In his first he made 63 League appearances and scored five goals before another transfer took him to Mansfield Town in August 1982.
He played 67 League games and scored seven goals for the Stags before he returned to Halifax to play a further 32 League games and score two more goals. He ended his League career after the 1985/86 season.
He came to Blackpool to succeed Graham Carr who lost his job after a poor start to the 1990/91 season and saw his position untenable after a 4-0 defeat by Tranmere Rovers in the Leyland DAF Cup on 27 November. Billy was almost an unknown in management terms, having only had a short and not very successful spell in the manager’s chair at Halifax Town. But he quickly endeared himself to the Bloomfield Road faithful and his folk-hero status was confirmed when he took the club into the play-offs at the end of the season having started life with his side in a perilous 18th position.
As every Blackpool supporter knows, Torquay United won at Wembley on penalties but Billy was not to be denied and a fourth place finish in the 1991/92 season saw his side return to Wembley. It boiled down to penalties once again but this time Blackpool came out on top. He constantly worked under financial restraints and after mixed fortunes over the following two years, he was dismissed from the manager’s post in 1994. There was outrage at his dismissal and, when the manager’s seat has subsequently become vacant his name has often been linked with the post as, amongst the fans, he retained his fantastic popularity.
He went on to manager Cardiff City and when he left there he spent some time at Bury as assistant-manager and it was in this last role that he was at Bloomfield Road for a reserve game early this season.
Billy sadly died on April 16th 2002, just under a month shy of his 50th birthday.
Thanks for the memories from “Billy Ayre's Tangerine Army”,
Billy Ayre and his time at Bloomfield Road
Billy Ayre was almost an unknown in management terms, having only had a short and not very successful spell in the manager's chair at Halifax Town. But Ayre quickly endeared himself to the Bloomfield Road faithful and his folk-hero status was confirmed when he took the club into the play-offs at the end of the season having started life with his side in a perilous 18th position.
What was to happen to Blackpool's home form under Ayre from virtually that day onwards can only be described as little short of astounding.
He didn't experience his first league defeat at Bloomfield Road for a full twelve months! It was not until the 23 November 1991 that Crewe Alexandra left Bloomfield Road and went home with all three points in a 2-0 win. Along the way, Billy's side also smashed two long established club records.
Firstly, they succeeded in recording fifteen consecutive home league wins the previous best run was in the 1951/2 season when eleven wins off the reel was achieved.
And secondly, the stretch of twenty four consecutive unbeaten home league games had never been equalled - the next best was way back in 1925/6 when a sequence of twenty one unbeaten matches occurred.
And the 'home' success story didn't stop there! Following the Crewe Alexandra reversal, the 'Pool remained unbeaten at home for the remainder of the 1991/2 season including the Play-Off match against Barnet which gave us another trip to Wembley and our, promotion to Division Two.
A summary of Ayre's outstanding home league record up until the 1992 promotion was as follows:
PLAYED 37, WON 31, DRAWN 5, LOST 1, FOR 89, AGAINST 21
During this period, incidentally, Blackpool kept twenty one clean sheets and remarkably failed to score in only one game (which, of course, was the one defeat against Crewe!) pretty impressive eh?
He constantly worked under financial restraints and after mixed fortunes over the following two years, he was dismissed from the manager's post in 1994.
There was outrage at his dismissal and, when the manager's seat has subsequently become vacant his name was often linked with the post as, amongst the fans, he retained his fantastic popularity.