One hundred years of Sir Alf: Celebrating the man who put Ipswich on the map and brought unmatched success to England
PUBLISHED: 06:00 22 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:28 22 January 2020
On what would have been Sir Alf Ramsey’s 100th birthday, we look at the man who brought unmatched success to both Ipswich and England.
Alfred Ernest Ramsey was born on January 22, 1920 in Dagenham.
One of five children, he was described as a 'very quiet boy who loved sport' and showed promise in football, cricket, boxing and high jump during his school years.
When he left the world of education he intended to work at the Ford plant in his home town and also had designs on becoming a greengrocer, before ultimately starting working doing deliveries for the local Co-op.
He was conscripted to the British army during the Second World War, which he spent on the home front in Cornwall and learnt vital communication skills he'd ultimately use during his management career.
During his time in the forces he continued to play football, catching the attention of Southampton and representing the Saints as a defender and striker during the war years before ultimately opting to sign professionally as a 26-year-old once he had been discharged from the army.
He ultimately settled as a right-back who was able to make up for his lack of pace due to his clever tactical ability and being able to be a step ahead of his opponent because of his sharp mind.
During his time as a Southampton player he made his England debut against Switzerland but he was soon on the move, joining Tottenham in 1949 for a fee of £4,500 and Wales international winger Ernie Jones.
Now at White Hart Lane, success came quickly as Spurs won the Second Division title in his first season before repeating the success as they won the First Division crown the following year, with Ramsey's displays earning him the nickname 'The General' from his team-mates.
He retired in 1955 at the of 35 and with 32 England caps to his name, featuring in the 1950 World Cup and captaining his country on a number of occasions.
Ramsey had wanted to remain at Tottenham and coach following the end of his playing career but no offer was forthcoming, before he ultimately moved to Ipswich in the summer of 1955 in the wake of the Blues' relegation from the second division.
He moved to Suffolk at a time when the Blues 'had no real pedigree or strong footballing tradition' with Ramsey commenting: "I had no plan for Ipswich when I went there", Ramsey later said. "In fact the first thing I had to do was to forget my set ideas on how football ought to be played. My experience had been in the First Division. I soon found that what I faced at Ipswich was very different."
Ramsey's Ipswich finished third in Third Division South before winning the title the following year and then achieving three-successive mid-table finishes in the Second Division.
By 1960/61 they were heading for the top flight for the first time, thanks to the goals of Ray Crawford and Ted Phillips, and it was those two strikers, along with left-sider Jimmy Leadbetter, who inspired Ramsey's side's greatest achievement in Suffolk as they won the First Division title in their first season at that level.
The success has truly put Ipswich, and Ramsey, on the footballing map.
Serving his country
Ipswich's success came at something of a price, as Ramsey couldn't resist the call of his country in 1962, although he remained in charge of Ipswich until the summer of 1963 as he 'didn't feel it was right' to walk away and leave his club in the lurch.
By demanding control of all areas of the national team, at a time when selection was often handled by the FA board, Ramsey was felt to be England's 'first proper manager' and caused a stir when he predicted England would win the 1966 World Cup soon after his appointment.
He was, of course, proved to be correct as England went all the way and beat West Germany 4-2 after extra-time to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy at Wembley.
One of Ramsey's star men, Bobby Charlton, said: "He was professional to his fingertips and as popular with the players as any manager I've ever seen. He was a winner and without Alf Ramsey England would not have won the World Cup in 1966. He gave us our proudest moment."
The success wasn't sustained, though, with a semi-final exit in the 1968 European Championship followed by a quarter-final loss at the 1970 World Cup and failed qualification campaigns for the 1972 Euros and 1974.
Less than a decade after World Cup glory, Ramsey was sacked as England manager.
His only other management job was a brief stint in charge of Birmingham City in 1977, which lasted just 26 games before his glittering career ultimately came to an end.
Sir Alf, as he was now known following his knighthood in 1967, spent much of his retirement in Ipswich playing golf at Rushmere and staying out of the limelight before falling into ill health, suffering a stroke in 1998 as well as Alzheimer's Disease and prostate cancer.
He died on April 28, 1999 following a heart attack and was buried following a private ceremony at the Old Ipswich Cemetery on May 7.
As well as his knighthood, Sir Alf was the first inductee to the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and then became the first to be named in the Hall twice, after his playing career was also recognised.
He is of course cast in bronze forever on the corner of Portman Road and Sir Alf Ramsey Way, which was named after him not long after his death, with the statue unveiled by Sir Bobby Charlton in 2000.
The Portman Road South Stand was named the Sir Alf Ramsey Stand in 2012 while there is also a bust of the legendary manager close to the tunnel at the rebuilt Wembley Stadium.
For club an country, Sir Alf Ramsey will always be a legend.
He put Ipswich Town on the map and gave his country its greatest footballing day with his two greatest achievements, the First Division title at Portman Road and the World Cup victory, not repeated since.
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