Why Sir Alf was a railway coach

NOT many schoolboy footballers go on to play for England and there can only be one who got a lesson in technique from the England manager on a train!

David Kindred

NOT many schoolboy footballers go on to play for England and there can only be one who got a lesson in technique from the England manager on a train!

A recent Kindred Spirits featured football teams from Westbourne School, Ipswich, in the 1960s, sent by former pupil Paul Blowers. John Hamilton, of Oulton Road, Ipswich, who was a teacher at Westbourne from 1963 until 1992, tells us about the day Ipswich legend Brian Talbot met Alf Ramsey on a journey from London to Ipswich when Brian was still a schoolboy.

He said: “The photographs of the Westbourne Secondary Modern School, Ipswich, football team, recently featured in Kindred Spirits, brought back memories of 43 years ago. In those days it was a normal part of a schoolmaster's job to volunteer to run a sports team, training and practicing after school hours, with matches taking place on Saturday morning, and sometimes in school time during midweek. As a young, newly qualified teacher who was keen on football, I joined my colleague, Mike Topper, who played cricket for Ipswich and East Suffolk, enthusiastically organising as many games as possible.

“Your correspondent, Paul Blowers, was Westbourne's version of Paul Keane and was duly made captain for his never-say-die leadership and strong tackling. We were a very competitive outfit with a skilful squad of players some of whom were outstanding schoolboy footballers. Martin Blake and Alan Dixon spring to mind. Mr Saunders, the headmaster, was very strict and ran the school on military lines, but he somehow allowed us to play as many as 38 games in a season, so many in fact that we published our own fixture list which was printed in the form of a booklet. We played all over Suffolk and in North Essex and with all that travelling our coach bill must have been horrendous!

“Those were the days when rivalry between schools was intense and the “old enemy” as far as we were concerned, was Tower Ramparts School, who boasted a very talented young player, Brian Talbot, who later went on to play for Ipswich, Arsenal and England. Brian usually ran riot in school matches, but he didn't get much change out of us! With Harold Pinkney and Peter McNally scoring a hat-full of goals and Martin Blake creating them, along with some physically strong defenders, we swept all before us losing only four of five games in three seasons. One of my memories is of Jimmy Smith walking home after a game with a very swollen fractured ankle, shrugging it off as a minor injury! His mother was not amused and I

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remember keeping out of her way for a few weeks! I send my best wishes to the 'boys' who must now all be approaching retirement age!

“Schoolboy football today is now run in a very professional manner and willing amateurs, without coaching qualifications, as was the case in the 1960s, would not be tolerated. We did, however, import professional coaches, usually professional footballers at the Ipswich and Suffolk schoolboy level. I remember Ken Malcolm who played left back for Ipswich taking sessions at Chantry School, whilst I did my best to interpret his instructions to a bemused group of boys who didn't understand a word he said in his broad Scottish accent! They gave their time for free and among the most enthusiastic of professional coaches we had was a young reserve team player Roger Wosahlo who came to Ipswich from Chelsea. He gave considerable time and enthusiasm to helping the Ipswich schoolboy teams. Town centre half 'Chopper' Jefferson was another who willingly gave up his time for the cause.

“It was about this time that I remember being asked to accompany “Noddy” Talbot to Kettering Town FC for an England schoolboy trial. We stayed with the other hopefuls in a hotel in Coventry the night before the game, two 'country-cousins' looking on dismayed as the big schoolboy association representatives vied with each other the night before the match to promote their boys from Manchester and Liverpool and other big cities. It seemed as though the whole thing had a political edge and that the England squad would be chosen before a ball had been kicked!

“Brain got half a game and was played totally out of position and that was the last we heard from anyone. It was more than a little rewarding to know that Brian proved them all wrong even though he was overlooked for England schoolboys, because he was the only boy present that day who went on to play for the full England team.

“The highlight of a miserable weekend was on the train journey home. Firstly we were approached, no doubt illegally, by a scout from Norwich City! He sat next to us and asked if we had eaten and offered to take us to the restaurant car. We were tempted, but being loyal Ipswich folk declined his offer and sent him packing, had we not done so would Brian have gone on to play for the Canaries? Very unlikely, but not impossible! Our loyalty to Ipswich was rewarded on the next train when we went to the buffet car for a snack and there standing at the bar was Alf Ramsey who was commuting back and forth to London as England manager.

“It was too good an opportunity to miss so we struck up a conversation. Mr Ramsey was very friendly and encouraged Brian to take up the sport professionally. He asked Brian what his strengths and weaknesses were and Brian said that he was rather slow over short distances with poor acceleration. At this point the manger of England proceeded to demonstrate, along the corridor of the train, how to take small steps and then lengthen your stride to increase speed! This must be a unique event, the only coaching session given by an England manager to a schoolboy while travelling on a train! He wished Brian well and little did any of us know then that Brian would go on to play for his country.

“Much later Westbourne went on to produce their own England international in Kieron Dyer, so you could say that in one sense we were able to catch up eventually with our old rivals at Tower Ramparts, albeit long after that school closed.”

- Do John Hamilton's memories remind you of your past? Do you have a team group photograph from Westbourne School or Tower Ramparts including Kieron Dyer or Brian Talbot. Write to Kindred Spirits at the Evening Star or e-mail info@kindred-spirit.co.uk