Sir Alfred Ernest 'Alf' Ramsey (22 January 1920 – 28 April 1999) was a 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 is recognition of England's World Cup glory the previous year.
As a player, he had been capped 32 times between 1948 and 1954, scoring three goals, and was part of the Tottenham Hotspur team which in 1951 became the first English team to be 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.
He bowed out of football in 1978, when manager of Birmingham City, and died in 1999 at the age of 79.
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 clubs 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.
Alf 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 in April 1963 having guided them from the Third Division South to the very top of English football.
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.
Ramsey dropped Alan Ball and John Connelly and brought in Martin Peters, whose advanced style of play as a midfielder matched just the qualities Ramsey looked for in his system, and Terry Paine. England beat Mexico 2-0 and faced France in their last group match. England went on to beat France 2-0 with Ian Callaghan replacing Terry Paine 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 flack from the top 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 side, 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 a notoriously rough Argentina side. 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 scraped a 1-0 win thanks to Geoff Hurst latching onto a beautiful cross from Martin Peters and heading home a goal. Ramsey came under flack when he stopped his players swapping shirts with the Argentinians in protest at their dirty play and was then misquoted as describing the Argentinians 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 the 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 was to thoroughly vindicate 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 exemplary as to this day and is the only England manager ever to have won the World Cup.
The early 70s saw failure in the 1972 European Championships (again to the Germans), and in a heartbreaking world cup qualifier against Poland at Wembley in October 1973, England failed to qualify for the World Cup. Again while Ramsey's tactics were partly to blame (his inappropriate, mistimed substitutions, for example), England had also been spectacularly denied a win over that would have secured their place by a mixture of poor finishing and incredible goalkeeping from Poland's Jan Tomaszewski. A few months later, Sir Alf was sacked by the FA, many of whose officials had long held a grudge against England's finest ever manager.
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. Lady Ramsey continues to live (2007) in Suffolk.
|Ipswich Town||August 1955||April 1963||369||176||118||75||47.7|
|England||May 1963||May 1974||113||69||17||27||61.1|
|Birmingham City||September 1977||March 1978||26||10||12||4||38.5|