|Full name:||Sir Alfred Ernest Ramsey|
|Date of birth:||22 January, 1920|
|Date of death:||28 April, 1999|
|Clubs played for:||Southampton, Tottenham|
|Clubs managed:||Ipswich, England|
For a man who was renowned for speaking with a rather plummy accent, it may come as a surprise to some that Alf Ramsey actually hailed from Dagenham. Born in 1920, he first made his footballing name as a gifted full-back playing for his World War II army regiment, then with Portsmouth in the London War League.
After moving to Southampton in 1943, Ramsey signed professional forms with the south coast club a year later and stayed until 1949 when he moved to Tottenham.
At White Hart Lane, Ramsey established himself as a quality defender who compensated for a lack of natural speed with an excellent positional sense. His all-round grace under pressure earned him the nickname of The General and he helped the north London club to a Second Division and a First Division title in successive seasons.
Ramsey made his England debut in a thumping 6-0 defeat of Switzerland in December 1948 and was even given the honour of captaining the side on three occasions. But despite scoring a penalty in the game, Ramsey made his last appearance for England in November 1953 when the side suffered a shock 6-3 defeat against Hungary.
International Career Stats
After retiring as a player in 1955, Ramsey headed for Suffolk to take up the reins at Ipswich of the Third Division (South). In only his second season in charge he led them to the title and, after four seasons in the Second Division, Ramsey had successfully built a team that won the 1961 championship and took Ipswich into the top-flight of English football for the first time in the club’s history. There was even better to come, though, as Ramsey took a side that had been written off as relegation certainties to the First Division title at the first time of asking.
That success brought Ramsey even greater national attention and, when Burnley manager Jimmy Adamson turned down the opportunity of managing England in 1963, Ramsey accepted the job - although he would accept it only on his own terms.
Ramsey was adamant that there was to be no interference in squad selection from the FA’s various boards. He gave the impression to the press that he was a cold man, and his strict training regimes only seemed to reinforce that view, but his distaste for giving any player star status helped to create a tight-knit atmosphere in the national set-up. And the players who could fit into Ramsey’s way of doing things had nothing but respect for their manager.
The 1966 World Cup proved that Ramsey’s way was indeed the right way as he tinkered with his selection in the early stages of the tournament before finally opting for a 4-4-2 line-up that dispensed with wingers entirely. After beating Argentina 1-0 in a famously ill-tempered match, where Ramsey physically stopped his players swapping shirts with Argentineans he famously referred to as “animals”, England made it to the final with a memorable 2-1 win over Portugal. The penalty England conceded was the first goal that had been scored against them in the entire tournament.
The 1966 World Cup final proved to be Ramsey’s finest hour as England beat West Germany 4-2. Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick, but it’s often forgotten that Ramsey had been under a lot of pressure to replace Hurst with a fit-again Jimmy Greaves. Again, the manager proved his innate technical nous, as well as his ability to make the difficult decisions, on the toughest stage of all. In recognition of his incredible achievement Ramsey was knighted in 1967.
Ramsey was unlucky to see his England side lose to Yugoslavia in the semi-final of the 1968 European Championship, then saw what was arguably a better team than the 1966 vintage lose 3-2 to West Germany in the quarter-finals of the 1970 World Cup tournament. England had been 2-0 up with just 20 minutes left to play.
England were in decline and it was the country’s failure to qualify for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, following the infamous 1-1 draw at Wembley against Poland, that eventually saw Sir Alf sacked by the FA. It was a sad end to a glorious period in England’s international football history.
Sir Alf brushed himself off and dusted himself down and even had a short-lived role as caretaker manager of Birmingham, not to mention the odd Daily Mirror column. But to all intents and purposes his life in football was over.
Sir Alf was coping with Alzheimer’s disease when he suffered a massive heart attack during the 1998 World Cup. He died in a nursing home less than a year later at the age of 79.
Ipswich 6-2 Burnley (First Division, August 29, 1961)
Burnley were one of the aristocrats of the English game at the beginning of the 1960s, but Ramsey’s Ipswich minnows gave them a bloody nose to record their very first win of a campaign that would see them go on to become First Division Champions. With Jimmy Baxter running things from midfield, the northerners had no answer to Ipswich’s fast, slick game and were on the receiving end of one hell of a beating. Ramsey was making people sit up and take notice of his qualities as a manager.
England 4-2 West Germany (World Cup final, July 30, 1966)
It was the final that had it all. Drama, tension, a hat-trick hero and a ‘did it or didn’t it?’ moment as Geoff Hurst’s extra-time shot pinged down off the crossbar and was awarded as a goal. England’s finest ever moment in football was masterminded by the quiet, unassuming and somewhat authoritarian figure of Alf Ramsey thanks to his innovative tactical system of ‘The Wingless Wonders’. England put the game beyond doubt following Hurst’s third strike in the last minute of the game, but on the final whistle Ramsey typically stayed in the background and let his players celebrate a victory that was every bit as much his as theirs.
England 2-3 West Germany (World Cup quarter-final, June 14, 1970)
The game that got away. Ramsey’s 1970 vintage England was perhaps an even better group than the one that won the World Cup four years previously. Having made the quarter-finals in Mexico they were confident of progressing against West Germany. But keeper Gordon Banks went down with a stomach bug an hour before the game and his replacement, Peter Bonetti, had a disaster. Even though England had gone 2-0 up with goals from Alan Mullery and Martin Peters, West Germany took advantage of a nervous Bonetti to score twice and take the game into extra-time, where Gerd Muller went on to net the winner. Ramsey had failed to retain the World Cup, but what might have happened had Banks been fit to play?
|Tottenham||First Division Championship||1951|
|Second Division Championship||1950|
|Ipswich||First Division Championship||1962|
|Second Division Championship||1961 1957|
|Third Division (South) Championship||1957|
Did You Know...?
When Ramsey took over as England manager in 1963 he immediately put his neck on the chopping block by categorically stating that his team would win the next World Cup.
Sir Alf acted as Technical Advisor to Greek side Panathinaikos between 1979 and 1980.
Sir Bobby Robson called Sir Alf “the greatest British football manager ever” and, despite the fact that the two men were never close friends, showed his respect for Ramsey by paying for his medical care at the end of his life.
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