Supported by Colin Kreidewolf
Sir Alf Ramsey
Profile by Robert Galvin, the author of Football's Greatest Heroes, the official book of the National Football Museum Hall of Fame:
Gordon Banks spoke for all the members of the England team of 1966. ‘Without Alf Ramsey,' he said, ‘we would never have won the World Cup.'
Ramsey made the players believe: in themselves, and also in him – as a tactician and a football man. The English style of play was ‘the best in the world', he argued, and Ramsey made the players believe that, too.
On the afternoon of 30 July 1966 the former England full-back gave the most important team-talk in the history of English football. The message he delivered – ‘You've won it once. Now go out and win it again' – is now part of football folklore.
A last-gasp goal at Wembley had denied England victory against West Germany in normal time. ‘One wrong word from Alf,' Bobby Moore said later, ‘and it might have been all over for us – we were that tired and their goal hit us that hard.'
Pointing to several West German players lying prostrate on the grass, Ramsey said: ‘Look at them, they're flat-out. Stand up. Don't let them think you're tired.'
‘Alf got it absolutely right,' Moore recalled, ‘and his words convinced us that we would go on and win the game.' As they did.
In his first job as a club manager, Ramsey guided Ipswich Town, then a modest provincial club, to the championship title in 1962 – a rise from Third Division obscurity to European Cup football in the space of five years.
Competing on a fraction of the budget of the major clubs, this was their first ever season in the top flight. ‘A truly remarkable feat,' said Matt Busby. Observers pointed to the manager's motivational ability and tactical acumen; Ramsey said it was down to the players.
The timing was significant: as manager of the newly-crowned champions Ramsey made himself an obviouis candidate for the vacant position as England manager. Duly appointed by the FA that autumn, he fulfilled a commitment to Ipswich before taking charge on a full-time basis in 1963.
He inherited a team in crisis. Successive defeats that spring merely deepened the existing mood of pessimism. The previous summer England endured a disappointing World Cup campaign in Chile; now they were being humiliated by France in the European Nations Cup. ‘We do not lose to the French - well, certainly not like that,' he told the players.
His first priority: to restore confidence. To do so, Ramsey deliberately put his neck on the line. ‘We will win the World Cup, Ramsey announced publicly. ‘We have the players, the ability, the strength of character and temperament to win the title in 1966.' Few people in football – and that included several England players – believed him. In fact, most commentators thought him, at best, hopelessly deluded.
Yet his statement did in fact mark a turning point: in the 44 games that followed, culminating in the World Cup final in 1966, England would taste defeat only four times.
‘A man of unyielding integrity and absolute loyalty, he bore no grudges, and had no favourites,' Gordon Banks wrote. ‘His knowledge was unrivalled, complemented by superb tactical acumen, yet his instructions were clear and simple. In 1966, Alf was simply brilliant.'
Four years later, in the searing heat of Mexico, England, one of the favourites going into the tournament, blew a two-nil lead against West Germany. In the space of an hour, Ramsey's world was turned upside down.
Worse was to follow in 1973 when – for the first time in history – England failed to even qualify. Ramsey would pay for that with his job, leaving behind a record of: played 113; won 69; drawn 27; lost 17; goals for 224, goals against 99.
His legacy went beyond statistics, however. Tactically, Ramsey transformed English football. The days of the specialist – the inside-forward, wing-half or touchline-hugging winger – were over. Instead, Ramsey wanted flexibility.
‘When we have the ball, all the players are attackers, and when we don't have the ball, all the players are defenders,' he said. Post-1966, his ‘Wingless Wonders' model - the basis of 4-4-2 - was adopted across the world, forming a vital link between the traditional ‘WM' formation and Total Football.
Alan Ball epitomised the new type of player Ramsey had in mind. Ball, however, had a simpler explanation for the success Ramsey achieved: ‘He made us proud to wear the England shirt.'