Alf Ramsey

30 Jul 2016


July 30th 1966 will be a date forever enshrined in the annals of English football. It is the date when the son of an Essex smallholder led a team of heroes to the pinnacle of their profession – and capped a meteoric rise in management that had begun just over a decade earlier.

A strong and polished defender in his playing days, Sir Alf Ramsey was a part of the famous Tottenham Hotspur ‘push and run’ League-winning team of 1951 and earned a total of 32 caps for England between 1948 and 1953.

But for all his success on the field, Ramsey only found his true calling in August 1955 when he was appointed manager of Ipswich Town. At that time, the Suffolk club was languishing in the Third Division South (the lowest rung of the ladder, as the Third Division was separated into two regional groupings and there was no Fourth Division).

Under Ramsey’s guidance, Ipswich rose spectacularly, progressing from Third Division also-rans to League champions in less than seven years (taking the title at the first attempt).

Such an extraordinary achievement was bound to attract attention and, when Walter Winterbottom resigned as England manager in late 1962, the FA turned to Ramsey.

The first England manager to be responsible for both selection and coaching, Ramsey was viewed as a gifted tactician. According to the Complete Book of Football Managers: “His tactics changed English football for all time. Gifted individuals did not necessarily fit into Ramsey’s plans. His tactics were innovative and by the time the opposition had worked them out, Ipswich had gained the League championship.”

When Ramsey took up his new role in January 1963, he made his mark by announcing that England would win the next World Cup. This was noteworthy not only because Ramsey wasn’t known as an effusive or boastful character, but also because the ‘Three Lions’ had underachieved up to this point (in the three previous World Cups, England had failed to make it beyond the quarter-final stages).

Just over three years later, though, he fulfilled his promise – and achieved something that none of his successors has come close to.

Although it was the 11 men on the pitch that beat West Germany, Ramsey’s influence loomed large. His selection of Geoff Hurst ahead of Jimmy Greaves (one of the world’s most potent strikers) showed the courage of his convictions, as did his decision to abandon his favoured 4-3-3 formation in favour of a more direct 4-4-2 half-way through the tournament.

Ramsey was knighted in 1967.