Sir Alfred Ramsey
Added 2006 Mar 17, 00:27 by Admin
Profile: Alfred Ramsey
* Name: Rinus Michels
* Date of Birth: 22 January 1920
* Date of Death: 28 April, 1999
* Birthplace: Dagenham, Essex, England

England ‘General’ Ramsey conquered the world

Not even Queen Elizabeth II could contain her joy on 30 July 1966 when England, recognised as the birthplace of modern football, finally captured the FIFA World Cup. As wild celebrations erupted inside Wembley Stadium and scores poured onto the streets up and down the country, it seemed there was just one man able to remain calm. Alf Ramsey, who had masterminded the nation’s greatest-ever sporting triumph, raised a warm smile but, remarkably, kept his composure as well as his seat on the bench.

Like Nobby Stiles’ jig and Bobby Moore’s lifting of the Jules Rimet trophy, the image of a restrained Ramsey sticks with every Englishman even 40 years after the famous event, underlining the importance of the role played by their coach and the quiet dignity that he personified. The ‘General’ also possessed an astute football brain, was flexible with his tactics, yet a strict disciplinarian, and as a technician was well ahead of his time. But perhaps his greatest talent was his ability to get the best out of his players.

Ramsey had got the England job after taking a band of journeymen playing at Ipswich Town from the Third Division South to the football league championship in seven seasons from 1955-62.

“We will win the World Cup,” the Essex man announced with uncharacteristic bravado as he took the national team reins in 1963. Never at ease among the press but nevertheless widely respected, a 5-2 loss to France in a European Nations' Cup qualifying game had many within the media questioning the appointment. But Ramsey, who as a small, slow but able right-back won 32 caps for England - he turned out domestically for Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur - was willing to take a major gamble by dispensing with the wingers English football had become identified with. He replaced them with an unfamiliar 4-4-2 formation, which led his side to become known as the ‘wingless wonders.’

But, whatever stick he took from the media, Ramsey’s loyalty to his players was always returned.

"It worked both ways,” explained midfield terrier Stiles, who, despite a vicious tackle on French playmaker Jaques Simon during England’s 2-0 group win, was backed to the hilt by his boss despite calls for him to be dropped for the quarter-finals. “Because he was loyal to you, you'd run through brick walls for him.

“And it wasn't just the players. Everyone concerned with England was doing it for Alf. Before the Argentina game I was in the bathroom putting me contacts in when Harold Shepherdson [Ramsey's assistant] come in. He grabs me by the throat, pushes me against the wall and says: 'Don't you let Alf down.'"

Despite bold Ramsey’s prediction, most football experts did not think England, even as hosts, could win the tournament. Four finals earlier, when Ramsey made his international debut as a player, England had suffered a humiliating defeat to the United States in Brazil. Ramsey’s last cap, three years later at Wembley, saw Hungary’s magical Magyars famously destroy the home team 3-6. At Switzerland ‘54, Sweden ‘58 and Chile ‘62, England failed to go beyond the last eight.

There was little reason to suspect that the Brits would dethrone Pele and Brazil, but England and English football were about to wake up to the world.

A goalless draw against Uruguay kicked off the finals for the hosts, which was followed by an unconvincing 2-0 win against Mexico. However, a confident 2-0 victory over France showed the team were moving in the right direction, and after vanquishing Argentina in a rugged 1-0 match - Ramsey infamously referred to the Argentina players as “animals” after the contest - the nation began to believe in the coach and his ‘wingless wonders.’

With Gordon Banks in goal and captain Bobby Moore majestic in front of him, England had not conceded a goal in the tournament to that point. When their net did bulge for the first time, it came just eight minutes from time in the semi-final against Portugal, and Eusebio’s penalty was too late as the sharp-shooting Bobby Charlton had already struck twice. The 2-1 victory put England into the final where they would face West Germany, a side they had never lost to.

And, while the form book continued in England’s favour, the drama of the 1966 FIFA World Cup final was hard to predict - Germany’s last gasp equaliser for 2-2, England’s controversial ‘third,’ Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick and finally the jubilation - all with Ramsey sitting resolutely on the bench.

Hero Hurst related how Ramsey convinced the team to fight on before extra time: “Alf never raised his voice, but he had a powerful manner.”

Alf became Sir Alf a year later and under his charge, the 60s continued to swing for English football fans. Many commentators believed the team Ramsey took to Mexico ’70 were even better than the champions of four years before, and the paternal England coach seemed to instinctively know what his boys needed to perform at their best. Together with this psychological insight into the machinations of the modern professional player, Ramsey’s hand extended as far as travel arrangements, diet and fitness. His planning and control was even more exact for the Mexico finals.

"Alf's preparations for Mexico were incredible,” remembered Stiles. “They'd be reckoned obsolete by today's standards but in those days they were revolutionary. No stone was left unturned. He even took HP Sauce to Mexico. I'll always remember that -- HP Sauce on the tables.”

But the world champions were hit by incidents off the field that would test Ramsey’s managerial abilities to the full. First, his captain and great ally, Moore, was falsely arrested for stealing a necklace from a shop in a Colombian hotel. And, before the quarter-final re-match with West Germany, Banks, whose miraculous save from a Pele header in the 1-0 group defeat to Brazil only added to his reputation of being the best in the business, fell ill.

The resulting quarter-final in Leon was a turning point in the England coach’s reign. An error from Banks’ replacement Peter Bonetti gave the Germans a lifeline at 2-1 in the second half, and Ramsey’s decision to take off Charlton just minutes before Uwe Seeler’s goal brought the contest level has been viewed as the moment when the boss’ messiah-like reputation was lost for good. Gerd Muller’s winner in the second period of extra time left England toppled in the most dramatic of fashions.

By the early 1970s football was transforming, and the change from black-and-white TV was accompanied by more colourful coaches who were more engaging with the media. Ramsey’s momentous feats in the Sixties found little currency when after a one-sided home draw with Poland, England failed to qualify for the Germany finals of 1974.

“If Bobby Moore had wept, we would have all wept with him,” said the deflated coach whose dozen-year reign came to an end after the contest. In all, Sir Alf’s England teams registered 69 victories, 27 draws and 17 losses.

"It was the most devastating half-hour of my life,” Ramsey later said of his sacking. “I stood in a room almost full of staring committee men. It was just like I was on trial. I thought I was going to be hanged.”

The 53-year-old son of a smallholder remained the people’s champion though and with every passing year his unique feat of leading England to victory in the game they gave to the world appears more and more remarkable.


Since the days of the first games in the United Kingdom, football had always been top heavy with forwards. Through the years as tactics became more developed, more of the 11 players took up defensive positions. Wingers like Stanley Matthews had become part of the English football fabric by the end of the 1950s but, partly because he was not satisfied with the wingers of the day and partly because of his own tactical thoughts on adding to the midfield, Ramsey decided to experiment without wingers in the lead up to the 1966 FIFA World Cup finals. After an unconvincing first round, he introduced the 4-4-2 system for the quarter-final against Argentina after which England never turned back. The system seemed to particularly suit Bobby Charlton who was given more freedom to test his shooting boots. The team became known as the ‘wingless wonders.’

National teams

* 1963 -1973 England

International honours

* 1966 FIFA World Cup England™ champion
* 1968 European Championship 3rd place


* 1955 - 1963 Ipswich Town
* 1977 - 1978 Birmingham City

Club honours

* 1962 English League Champion

Playing Career

International honours

* 32 International appearances, 3 goals
* England captain 3 times


* 1943 - 1948 Southampton
* 1949 - 1955 Tottenham

Club honours

* 1951 English League Champion


* Received English Knighthood in 1967

Did You Know?

* Ramsey’s first job as a manager was at Ipswich Town. The club from a small town in England’s East had no history of footballing success and played in the Third Division South. Within seven seasons, they would be crowned champions of all England.
* Ramsey’s scored three times in 32 appearances for his country with the last goal coming in his final match, which was one of the most notorious in footballing history – the 3-6 defeat to Hungary at Wembley in 1953
* As a player, Ramsey won the title with Tottenham Hotspur in 1951, but, as a coach he prevented Spurs from claiming successive doubles when he led Ipswich to the championship crown in 1962.
* Football was Ramsey’s passion. During away-match train journeys, Ipswich players would bet with each other to see how long they could enter into conversation with him without the subject of football coming up. The record was four minutes.
* After England’s opening 0-0 draw versus Uruguay in 1966, Ramsey thought the best remedy to relieve the pressure was to take the squad to the set of a James Bond films, where they shared a drink with a famous Scotsman, Sean Connery.
* Because of altitude difficulties in a warm-up tour before the 1970 finals, Ramsey introduced England's first full-time doctor, who was given the task of finding out how to prepare for games played at venues thousands of feet above sea level.

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