Alf Ramsey was born in Dagenham in 1920. He had four brothers and one sister. His father, Herbert, was a laborer. His job was to look after pigs. Dagenham wasn’t a fancy place, and the young Alf Ramsey had to learn to deal with very little. From a very young age, Alf Ramsey loved playing soccer, and it was his favorite pastime as he competed against his brothers. To develop his skill level, he would learn to play with a tennis ball. However, Alf Ramsey didn’t just excel in football.
Alf competed and excelled in other sport like cricket, athletics, and boxing. He fought against someone much bigger and stronger and got a beating that put him off boxing. Alf had a scar that stayed with him for the rest of his life, and it appeared above his mouth. He attended the school of Becontree Heath School. Alf Ramsey left school at 14, worked as an apprentice, and didn’t play Saturday football for two years.
Did you know that Bobby Robson was an electrician’s apprentice before signing his first professional contract?
Alf Ramsey Professional Soccer Career
Before his professional football career began, he participated in the second world war in 1940. Alf Ramsey was grateful for the time he spent in the army as he said it was one of the most incredible things to ever happen to him. His first professional club was with Southampton, and he made his debut as a right back. He found the step up from wartime football very difficult and noted how much quicker the level of thought was.
Alf was an excellent passer of the ball and had a good football intelligence that helped him play at a higher level. He played for Southampton for six years before moving to Tottenham Hotspurs in 1949. Ramsey cited that he liked the Tottenham style of play as one of the club’s main attractions. By this time he was an England international as well. Tottenham played a style of football that was unusual to English football, and he was a great asset to the club. Alf is remembered for his mistake against Blackpool in the semi-final of the FA Cup in 1953. This mistake cost Tottenham a place in the FA Cup final. It was a mistake that he never got over. Alf Ramsey retired from football in 1955.
Alf Ramsey played for England during his career amassing 32 caps and scoring three goals. He played in one of the most infamous matches of English history against Hungary in 1953. This is one of the most critical matches in English football as it helped shape the ideas of English football and a young Alf Ramsey. England lost 6-3 to the Magical Magyars, and it could have been worse. The Hungarians toe the English national team to pieces as it showed how far behind they were. The passing and combination play of the Hungarians shaped Alf’s tactics when he became a manager.
Ramsey was involved in the greatest World Cup upset. In the 1950 World Cup, the pioneers of modern soccer suffered a defeat by a team from a country that did not follow the sport. He played right back in this game where the USA defeated England 1-0
Alf Ramsey Soccer Management Career
As soon as Alf Ramsey retired for Tottenham Hotspurs, he became the manager of Ipswich Town and started earning rave reviews. He guided his side to the Second Divison title in 1961 and won the first division title in 1962. The fact that he won back-to-back titles demonstrates how good a soccer manager he was. Alf took the England job in 1963 and prepared the team very well for the World Cup in England. He was so confident that he predicted that his team would win the whole competition.
In 1966, Ramsey was 46 years old and at the peak of his management career. England played a formation where there were no wingers. The first game in the World Cup was against Uruguay, and it finished 0-0. This was a very disappointing start. They would beat Mexico 2-0 and France 2-0 in the next qualifying matches. They went on to meet Argentina in the quarter-finals. During the game, Argentine player Antonio Rattin refused to leave the pitch after being sent off. England won the game 1-0, scored by Jeff Hurst. At the end of the match, Alf refused to let the England players swap shirts with the Argentinians.
England progressed to the semi-final and played Portugal. They beat Portugal 2-1 and stop Eustabio’s Portugal from getting to the final. In the final, they faced the West Germans. Alf Ramsey made some big decisions before the final. The controversial decision was to drop prolific striker Jimmy Greaves. England was winning the game 2-1. The West Germans scored a late goal making it 2-2. During the team talk before the extra time, Alf Ramsey said the famous words of “ You’ve won it once. Now you’ll have to go out there and win it again.”
England would go on to beat West Germany 4-2 in extra time and lift the World Cup trophy for the first time.
Alf Ramsey’s time as the England Manager ended in 1974 due to not qualifying for the 1974 World Cup. In their final qualifying game against Poland, they had to win. They drew 1-1 and lead to his sacking.
After his 11 years as England manager, Alf Ramsey wasn’t very active after his time with England. He became the Birmingham City manager in 1977. It lasted a year. He was the technical director of the greek team, Panathinaikos, from 1979 until 1980. Alf Ramsey died in 1999 at the age of 79.
Five Interesting Facts About Sir Alf Ramsey
- Shortly after taking the England manager’s job in 1963, Ramsey boldly, but accurately, said: “England will win the World Cup in 1966.”
- Ramsey made his final appearance for England in the infamous 6-3 defeat by Hungary at Wembley in 1953 when he scored the winning goal.
- As a player with Tottenham Hotspur and England, Ramsey earned the nickname ‘The General’ because of his organized, commanding presence.
- When Ramsey took the England squad to the set of a James Bond film he made many smile by pronouncing 007 Sean Connery’s name as ‘Seen’.
- Alf Ramsey was 29 when he made his England debut against Sweden in 1949. Of his 32 caps, three were at the 1950 FIFA World Cup.