This time in our trip back through the archives we look at a man who died 16 years today, (28th April) Alf Ramsey. Alf was one of the cornerstones of the 1950’s side that won back to back Second and First division titles. One of the best right backs in our history. Who will best be remembered as the manager of the England team who he led to their 1966 World Cup victory.
Alf joined Spurs in April 1949. The fee was £21,000 which was then a record for a full back
He would make his debut the following August in a 4-1 win away to Brentford.
Alfred Ernest Ramsey was born in Dagenham the son of a grocer and played for the local school sides. He signed amateur forms for Portsmouth but never played for them. When he was serving in the Army he played for his unit against Southampton reserves. Who signed him as a professional.
He played for the Football league and England B before winning his first England Cap. Then he was injured and could not win his place back in the Southampton side. He requested a transfer and signed for Tottenham at 29 years of age. The club had made several attempts to sign him prior to this.
Alf fitted in at Spurs and to Arthur Rowe’s blueprint for how he wanted the side to play. He made 250 appearances for the club and scored 30 goals. Hardly missing a game between 1949 and 1955. He captained the side when Ron Burgress left the club.
Alf was not known for his speed but could read the game well. Had an excellent range of passing skills and liked to play the ball out from the back. This at a time when most full backs just thumped the ball as far as possible.
His calm leadership on the field led him to be nicknamed ‘the general’.
Apart from the two title wins he won 32 England caps’ (31 at spurs) and captained the national side three times. He scored three goals all from the penalty spot.(4)
His first cap as a Tottenham player came in the Italy game that was played at White Hart Lane. Alf was the first Tottenham player to play in a World Cup qualifier and then the first to play in the Finals tournament. He played in all three games in the 1950 competition (1). His last cap came in the game at Wembley when Hungary famously beat the home country 6-3.
In his first season he won the title with the small town club something that would appear impossible these days. In a rare tactical error by Nicholson he beat Bill's team and denied them a second double. His success as a manager was built on playing without wingers, a tactic he later used for England 'wingless wonders' (2). His first England game was a 2-5 loss to France but four years later he won the World Cup at Wembley. He became Sir Alf when he was knighted in 1967.
It was clear in those playing days that Bill Nicholson and Alf Ramsey would both go into management, although Bill had become part of the Tottenham coaching staff. We can only wonder what would of happened if Ramsey had become Tottenham manager and Nicholson had moved on.
To say he was a complex person is most likely an understatement. As a young man he took elocution lessons. He later did not like being reminded of his birthplace and when Terry Venables upon being called up to the England squad said ‘my mum knows your mum’ he was clearly not best pleased. Rumour had it that he may have had gypsy blood in his veins, although as far as I’m aware that was never proven. He was never happy talking to the press and this was made clear every time he spoke to them. It was once mentioned to him that he played in the defeat to USA to which he replied ‘Yes I’m the only one that did,”
Ron Reynolds wrote that after he left Tottenham Alf then Ipswich manager made an illegal approach to sign him and when he declined Alf did not speak to him again. Ron then wrote that a few years later he was at Wembley stadium and ran into Alf who was by that point England manager. Ron said hello and asked how he was and claims Alf looked at him and after a moment said 'Oh yes I used to play with you,' with that Alf turned and walked away (3).
He remained England manager for eight years and later joined the Board at Birmingham City and later still became their manager. Alf Ramsey died in 1999 and there is a stand named after him at Ipswich. He is in the England Hall of Fame. His character was also featured in the Roy of the Rovers comic strip.
Keith Harrison. ht 49
t- Keith 16024542
f- peter shearman (old non de plume reserved for THFC matters)
Notes - 1 - Flying Down to Rio 3,
2 - Rio 9,
3 - Ron Reynolds diaries - "The diary of a 1950's Footballer.
4 - Connections - England 2.
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