Alf Ramsey

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Sir Alf Ramsey
Alf Ramsey.jpg
Personal information
Full name Alfred Ernest Ramsey
Date of birth (1920-01-22)22 January 1920
Place of birth Dagenham, Essex, England
Date of death 28 April 1999(1999-04-28) (aged 79)
Place of death Ipswich, Suffolk, England
Height 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Playing position Right-back
Youth career
1940–1943 Portsmouth
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1943–1949 Southampton 90 (8)
1949–1955 Tottenham Hotspur 226 (24)
National team
1948–1953 England 32 (3)
Teams managed
1955–1963 Ipswich Town
1963–1974 England
1977–1978 Birmingham City
1979–1980 Panathinaikos (Technical Director)[1]
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Sir Alfred Ernest "Alf" Ramsey (22 January 1920 – 28 April 1999) was an English footballer and manager of the English national football team from 1963 to 1974. His greatest achievement was winning the 1966 World Cup with England on 30 July 1966. They also came third in the 1968 European Championship and reached the quarter-final stage of the 1970 World Cup and the 1972 European Championship under his management. He was knighted in 1967 in recognition of England's World Cup win the previous year.

As a player, he had been capped 32 times between 1948 and 1953, scoring three goals, and was part of the Tottenham Hotspur team which in 1951 became champions of the top flight a year after promotion.

Between the end of his playing career and his appointment as England manager, Ramsey was Ipswich Town manager for eight years, taking them from the Third Division to the top of the First Division in that time, winning the English Championship title at the first attempt.

His final job in football was manager of Birmingham City, which he left in March 1978.

Playing career[edit]

Ramsey was born in Dagenham, England. Having been a gifted amateur as a pupil and as a player for his army regiment, he played for Portsmouth in the London War League in 1942 before moving to Southampton from 1943 to 1949 (since 1944 as a professional), and Tottenham Hotspur after that. He was very successful with Spurs, playing as a right-back in more than 250 cup and league games, and in 1948 made his England debut against Switzerland; he went on to captain his country three times, all in games where the regular skipper Billy Wright was unavailable through injury. His last game for England was the 6–3 defeat by Hungary in November 1953, in which he scored a penalty. As a player Ramsey was considered slow, but had excellent positional sense, read the game better than most, had awareness, strength, and excellent distribution for a defender. He was also a specialist penalty kick taker; his coolness and ability to anticipate the goalkeeper earning him the nickname The General. All three of his England goals were scored from the penalty spot.

Managerial career[edit]

Ipswich Town[edit]

He retired from playing in 1955 to become manager of Ipswich Town. He guided the Suffolk-based side to third place in the Third Division South in his debut season, the side scoring 106 goals in the 46 league fixtures. Ramsey's second season in charge led to the division title, Ipswich's second at that level, and promotion to the Second Division.

The Suffolk-based side established themselves at the Second Division level for the following three seasons with mid-table finishes. Ramsey also managed his side to moderate success in the FA Cup, reaching the Fifth Round in the 1958–59 season. After three seasons of mid-table finishes, the fourth brought further success to Portman Road as Ramsey guided the Blues to the Second Division title and into the top flight for the first time in the club's history.

Ramsey's Ipswich achieved unprecedented success the following season as he led his side to the Championship in their debut season at the top level. The side had been tipped by virtually all contemporary football pundits and journalists for relegation at the start of the season, making the achievement arguably one of the most remarkable in the history of the League.

Ramsey's tactical astuteness, working with a squad of solid but not outstanding players, baffled and astonished the illustrious football clubs against whom Ipswich were playing. Ramsey had found the style he would take to the England job the following April; choosing players to fit his system on the pitch. He left Ipswich Town on 29 April 1963 after eight seasons having guided them from the Third Division South to the very top of English football.

England[edit]

Ramsey was appointed England manager on 25 October 1962 (effective from 1 May 1963) and immediately caused a stir when he predicted that England would win the next World Cup, which was to be held in England in 1966. This was a bold statement to make, as England's performance on the international stage had been poor up to that point, but managers will often make such predictions - none will say that their teams will stand no chance. The World Cup started in 1930: but England refused to participate until 1950, when they suffered an embarrassing 1-0 defeat at the hands of the U.S.A. (Ramsey played at right-back in this game.) When Ramsey took over, he demanded complete control over squad selections. Before Ramsey, Walter Winterbottom had been manager, but selections and other decisions were often carried out by board committees. When Ramsey took over all of these duties, it led to him being referred to as 'England's first proper manager'.

Ramsey was a firm but fair manager and was often regarded as difficult by the press. He ran a strict regime with his players and made sure that no-one felt that they enjoyed special status, star player or not. In May 1964, after a number of players failed to show up for a meeting in a hotel about a forthcoming tour, amongst them Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton, they eventually returned to their rooms to discover their passports left on their beds. His strict regime didn't suit everyone but the players with real talent and respect for the game responded well to them and had great respect for Ramsey. Very few of those who played for Ramsey spoke ill of him. In the preparations for the 1966 World Cup, Ramsey made sure that no player was confident of a place in the final 22, which resulted in players performing at their highest level. His decision to appoint a young Bobby Moore as captain also showed Ramsey's ability to see great potential in young players. Another one of his abilities was as a master tactician: a quality that he had first shown with his reading of the game as a player. When it came to tactics, Ramsey had revolutionary ideas.

Tactics[edit]

During his time at Ipswich, Ramsey began experimenting with a new style of play that would eventually lead to success in the World Cup and led to his England team being styled, "The Wingless Wonders". As natural wingers were not always known for their defensive qualities, Ramsey started dropping them in favour of attacking midfielders who could also drop back into defensive roles. This system proved revolutionary as it often baffled opposing fullbacks, who would naturally expect to see a winger coming down the flank at them once the ball was kicked off: instead, the attacking midfielders and strikers were taking the ball through the middle of the defence and scoring. This style of play proved successful at Ipswich, but really showed its worth when England travelled to Spain to play a friendly with them before the World Cup. As Bobby Charlton remarked, "The Spanish fullbacks were just looking at each other while we were going in droves through the middle". To go to Spain (who were the reigning European Champions) and win easily was a rare achievement for England, and clear evidence that Ramsey's techniques were working.

1964 European Championships[edit]

Ramsey's first competitive match as England coach was a preliminary qualification round for the 1964 European Nations' Cup (England, along with many other national teams, had declined to participate in the inaugural 1960 competition). England had been drawn against France for a two-legged knockout fixture to progress to the last sixteen qualifiers. The home leg, played under Winterbottom, had been drawn 1–1. Ramsey took charge for the away leg in Paris, which was lost 5–2, England thus being eliminated from the competition.

The 1966 World Cup[edit]

Because England hosted the 1966 World Cup, the national team qualified automatically.

The first group game was against Uruguay and despite an array of attacking talent, including Jimmy Greaves and Roger Hunt, England were held to a 0–0 draw. Ramsey's statement made three years earlier was looking in doubt now, but he remained calm and continued experimenting when his side faced Mexico in the next game. Ramsey was using the 4-3-3 system and for each of the group games used a winger; John Connelly against Uruguay, Terry Paine against Mexico and Ian Callaghan against France.

Ramsey dropped Alan Ball and John Connelly and brought in Terry Paine and Martin Peters, whose advanced style of play as a midfielder matched the qualities Ramsey looked for in his system. England beat Mexico 2–0. Ramsey replaced Terry Paine with Ian Callaghan for their final group match, against France. England won 2–0, securing qualification to the knockout rounds. Two difficult situations arose from the final group match, however. After making a vicious tackle and being cautioned, midfielder Nobby Stiles came under fire from senior FIFA officials, who called for Ramsey to drop him from the side. Ramsey was having none of it, and firmly told the FA to inform FIFA that either Stiles would remain in his team or Ramsey himself would resign. Another bad tackle was committed during that match, resulting in Tottenham striker (and one of England's most prolific goal-scorers) Jimmy Greaves being injured and sidelined for the next few matches. Despite having more experienced strikers in his squad, Ramsey selected young Geoff Hurst as Greaves's replacement, once again seeing potential in the young West Ham forward. The France match also marked Ramsey's final game with a winger. After it, he dropped Ian Callaghan from his side and brought back Alan Ball to strengthen the midfield.

For the knockout stages, England's first opponents were Argentina. Ramsey once again showed his tactical awareness, and, now he was no longer using wingers, he decided to switch from 4–3–3 to 4–4–2. With Ball and Peters operating on the flanks, the midfield now boasted Nobby Stiles and Bobby Charlton in the centre. After a violent quarter-final (where the Argentine captain Antonio Rattin refused to leave the field after being sent off), England won 1–0 thanks to Geoff Hurst latching onto a cross from Martin Peters and heading home a goal. Ramsey came under fire when he stopped his players swapping shirts with the Argentinians in protest at their play and was then reported to have described Argentinian players as "animals".

In the semi-final, England faced a fluent and skillful Portuguese side containing the tournament's top goal-scorer Eusébio. However, England won a 2–1 victory in a memorable match which saw them concede their first goal of the competition from the penalty spot. Ramsey had found the perfect defensive formula that went unchanged throughout the entire tournament.

On 30 July 1966, Ramsey's promise was fulfilled as England became the World Champions by beating West Germany in a thrilling final. A lot of Ramsey's tactics and decisions proved their worth in this final. Ramsey came under pressure to restore the fit-again Jimmy Greaves to the side: but he stuck to his guns and kept faith with Greaves's replacement, Geoff Hurst, who vindicated Ramsey's judgement by scoring a hat-trick in a 4–2 win (after extra time) at Wembley. Filling his side with a good balance of experience and youth proved vital when the gruelling final went to extra time. The youth in the team powered England through extra time. A particular example of this was Alan Ball who, at 21, was the youngest player in the England side. Even in extra time, he never showed signs of tiredness and never stopped running – famously setting up Hurst's controversial second goal, as well as having a few chances himself. Even as the match ended with Geoff Hurst scoring England's fourth goal, Ball was still running down the pitch in case Hurst needed assistance. Rather than a cross from Hurst, Ball was greeted by a number of England fans running onto the pitch who, thinking that the game was already over, had already started celebrating England's victory.

Ramsey remained his usual self during the celebrations: not joining in, but rather opting to let his players soak up their achievement. With his boldly-made promise now fulfilled, Ramsey had proved that the 4–4–2 system could work and had assembled an England team that could compete on the highest level due to physical fitness and good tactics. He remains an example to this day and is the only England manager ever to have won the World Cup.

1968 European Championships[edit]

England reached the last eight of the 1968 European Championships by amassing the best aggregate record of the four Home Nations over the 1966–67 and 1967–68 seasons (despite a dramatic loss to Scotland 3–2 at home in 1967). They subsequently defeated Spain home and away to become one of four teams to progress to the finals in Italy. There England suffered a 1–0 defeat by Yugoslavia in the semi-finals, and had to settle for third place after beating the Soviet Union. This remains England's best ever position in a major international tournament apart from the 1966 World Cup.

1970 World Cup[edit]

England qualified automatically as defending champions for the 1970 World Cup, held in Mexico. They entered the tournament as one of the favourites and many people thought their squad superior to that of 1966. Ramsey's preparations for the tournament had been disrupted by the arrest of Bobby Moore in the Bogotá Bracelet incident.

In the first round, two 1–0 victories over Romania and Czechoslovakia enabled England to progress, despite a loss by the same scoreline to ultimate champions Brazil (a match which also featured a famous save by Gordon Banks from Pele's header). In the quarter-final, however, they lost to the Germans 3–2, after having been in the lead 2–0 with only twenty minutes remaining. The blame was put partly on Ramsey's's cautious tactics and partly on the stand-in goalkeeper, Chelsea's Peter Bonetti. This match would mark the start of a thirty-year period during which England failed to either beat, or finish ahead of, West Germany in any major international football tournament.

1972 European Championship[edit]

England reached the last eight of the 1972 European championship by topping a qualification group also containing Switzerland, Greece and Malta. England then faced West Germany again in a home-and-away knockout match to determine who would progress to the finals (which featured only four teams). A 3–1 home defeat at Wembley, followed by a scoreless draw in Berlin, meant that England were eliminated. West Germany went on to win the competition.

1974 World Cup[edit]

England had the benefit of a seemingly easy qualification group for the 1974 World Cup, consisting of just Poland and Wales. However the Poles, who had not qualified for a World Cup finals since 1938, were a massively improved team who would go on to finish third in the tournament. A home draw with Wales, followed by a defeat in Warsaw, meant that England had to win their final match against Poland at Wembley in October 1973. A mix of mistimed substitutions by Ramsey and an inspired goalkeeping performance by Poland's Jan Tomaszewski, who made many crucial saves, meant that the match finished 1–1. This meant that England had tried and failed to qualify for a World Cup for the first time in the national team's history (England did not compete in the three pre-War World Cups, but that was because of a boycott of FIFA by the English FA).

Sacking[edit]

A few months after the draw with Poland, Ramsey was sacked by the FA, many of whose officials had long held apparent grudges against him. Leo McKinstry has said "England's most successful manager would have had a legacy fit for a hero had it not been for the malevolence of the FA chief Harold Thompson".[2][3]

Later life and death[edit]

Ramsey suffered a massive stroke on 9 June 1998, during the 1998 World Cup. By this stage he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He died less than a year later, in a nursing home, on 28 April 1999, at the age of 79 from a heart attack, while also suffering from prostate cancer. He was buried in a private ceremony at Old Ipswich Cemetery[4] on 7 May 1999.[5]

Legacy[edit]

Statue of Ramsey at Portman Road. The southern stand at the ground is named in his honour.

Ramsey was made an inaugural inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 in recognition of his impact on the English game as a manager.

Sir Alf Ramsey Way, formerly Portman's Walk, is a street in Ipswich that was named after Ramsey shortly after his death in honour of his achievements as Ipswich Town manager. In 2000, a statue of Ramsey was erected on the corner of the street named after him and Portman Road, at the North Stand/Cobbold Stand corner of the stadium. The statue was commissioned by the Ipswich Town Supporters' Club after an initial idea by local fan Seán Salter. On 31 March 2012, the South Stand at Portman Road was renamed to the Sir Alf Ramsey Stand.[6]

Personality[edit]

Bobby Robson declared that Alf was the greatest British football manager ever.[7]

Membership of Freemasonry[edit]

Ramsey was a Freemason from 1953 until 1981. He was initiated into Waltham Abbey Lodge, No. 2750, on 5 October 1953 at the age of 33, while still on the playing staff of Tottenham Hotspur. He was passed to the 2nd degree the following month and raised to the 3rd degree in October 1954. He remained a Freemason until 1981, when he resigned. Following his death in 1999, his widow donated various items of his masonic regalia, including his master mason's apron and his Grand Lodge certificate to his old lodge. They are currently (2010) displayed at the Masonic Hall in Chingford, Essex.[8]

Quotes[edit]

  • "We will win the World Cup" – Ramsey said after taking the England job in 1963.[9]
  • "Never change a winning team."[10]
  • "It seemed a pity so much Argentinian talent is wasted. Our best football will come against the right type of opposition – a team who come to play football, and not act as animals." – Ramsey's indignant opinion of Argentina after England beat them 1–0 in a bruising quarter final in the 1966 World Cup.[10]
  • "You've won it once. Now you'll have to go out there and win it again." – Ramsey's brief team talk prior to the extra-time period in the 1966 final.[9]

Honours[edit]

As a player[edit]

Tottenham Hotspur

As a manager[edit]

Ipswich Town
England

1966 World Cup final[edit]

In the 1966 World Cup final only the 11 players on the pitch at the end of the 4–2 win over West Germany received medals. Following a Football Association led campaign to persuade FIFA to award medals to every non-playing squad and staff member, George Cohen received the medal on behalf of the former England manager's family from Gordon Brown at a ceremony at 10 Downing Street on 10 June 2009.[11]

Career statistics[edit]

[12]

Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
England League FA Cup League Cup Europe Total
1946–47 Southampton Second Division 23 1
1947–48 42 5
1948–49 25 2
1949–50 Tottenham Hotspur Second Division 41 4
1950–51 First Division 40 4
1951–52 38 5
1952–53 37 6
1953–54 37 2
1954–55 33 3
Total England 316 32
Career total 316 32

Managerial statistics[edit]

Team Nat From To Record
G W D L Win %
Ipswich Town[13] England August 1955 April 1963 369 176 75 118 47.7
England[14] England May 1963[15] May 1974[15] 113 69 27 17 61.1
Birmingham City England September 1977 March 1978 26 10 4 12 38.5

References[edit]

  1. ^ Greece Alpha Ethniki season 1979–80 Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation
  2. ^ "The Guardian" "Hero cast aside – Sir Alf Ramsey, 1970s"
  3. ^ Leo McKinstry, "Sir Alf: A Major Reappraisal of the Life and Times of England's Greatest Football Manager," published by HarperSport, 2007.
  4. ^ MacFarlaine, Iain (6 October 2002). "Alf Ramsey (1920 – 1999)". Find a Grave. Retrieved 25 November 2012. 
  5. ^ "Private funeral for Sir Alf". BBC News. 7 May 1999. 
  6. ^ "Ipswich Town renames stand after Sir Alf Ramsey". BBC News. 30 March 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  7. ^ "Sir Alf Ramsey: England's World Cup winning General". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 25 November 2012. 
  8. ^ Article "The Beautiful Game" by Patrick Kidd and Matthew Scanlan, published in "Freemasonry Today," No.11, Summer 2010
  9. ^ a b "Alf Ramsey - England's Anonymous Hero". www.fifa.com. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "World Cup medal honour for Sir Alf". www.ipswichstar.co.uk. 26 June 2009. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  11. ^ World Cup 1966 winners honoured
  12. ^ Alf Ramsey at National-Football-Teams.com
  13. ^ "Alf Ramsey". Pride of Anglia. Archived from the original on 4 March 2008. Retrieved 14 February 2008. 
  14. ^ "England Hall of Fame". The Football Association. Archived from the original on 5 March 2005. 
  15. ^ a b "England's Coaches/Managers – Alf Ramsey". England Football Online. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 1 July 2008. 

External links[edit]