Alf Ramsey – great coach in the England Football History
Alf Ramsey avoided journalists. He hated them for their constant skepticism, stubbornness, importunity and artificial pressure on the players. The Daily Mail football journalist confessed once: “Chief Editor warned me to stop repeating nonsense after Ramsey about the England team possible victory at the home world championship of 1966. He said I would finish badly and would be fired immediately after the England elimination.”
Media phobia of Alf Ramsey
Journalists did not understand why Alf had refused wingers and sticked to a “wingless” formation. Misunderstanding grew into disdain. The coach returned “the love”. “If journalists could harass us before starting the training for several hours earlier, Alf gave them only 20 minutes now. He interrupted the interview, even if the reporter did not finish,” recalled Nobby Stiles.
There were less obvious reasons for Alf’s media phobia. Ramsey was originally from Dagenham, but grew up in Essex in a house without electricity. His father traded hay and straw. Alf listened attentively to the BBC radio announcers in his youth and repeated after them, trying to get rid of the accent. Ramsey was shy by nature and was afraid to blurt out something stupid in public.
Meeting with Sean Connery
The great coach took the players to the Pinewood studio after a goalless draw with Uruguay in the group round. There was Bond “You Live Only Twice” next series filming. Alf said a few words on behalf of the players after the tour and thanked Connery, calling him not Sean, but “Sin” (“Sin Connery”).
Ramsey’s strong squad
Dagenham is a depressive north-east area of London now. There are Becton and Barking nearby, which names probably sounded in your head thanks to Oxxxymiron rapper.
Alf was too simple for journalists; there were no loud phrases or scandals. Ramsey appreciated old-fashioned honesty, dignity, courage, selflessness in people. His team matched him: Bobby Moore, who killed the oncology, Bobby Charlton, who lost his friends in a plane crash.
Alan Ball rode through the US and Canada until he showed himself in Blackpool. The goalkeeper Banks father was a caster from Sheffield, and Hurst’s dad was a gun maker from Essex. They were guys with a character.
The Great Coach discipline
Alf demanded discipline from the players. The coach went into the hall, where players watched TV every evening at 22:30. “Good night, gentlemen,” said the coach, and everyone went to his room, even if there was film culmination on the screen.
Once Ramsey allowed the players to invite their wives and girlfriends to hotel, but at 22.30 he appeared on the threshold again:
“Good-bye, ladies. Good night, gentlemen”.
Everybody could see gleaming ironic spark in Ramsey’s eyes.
Sleepless nights before the World Cup Finals
Ramsey’s strictness was compensated by paternal care. Hurst recalled: he intentionally did not put the England national team’s badge on his official suit lapel one day. He just did not want to look like the school monitor.
Alfred almost did not sleep a few nights before the World Cup final. He was replaying a decision in his head, which he later called the most questionable in his life.
Should he leave the winning team or return to the field Jimmy Greaves, who missed several matches due to injury? Jimmy was a real star, the England’s top scorer. He was considered much more talented than Hunt and Hurst.
The journalists insisted on Greaves, but Ramsey did not change the victorious first team: hardworking Hunt and Hurst were much more reliable than unpredictable Jimmy.
Ramsey understood the journalists would eat him alive in case of failure, but remained cold-blooded. “One of the Alf’s main properties was his almost calmness Zen at moments of the greatest pressure. Although Ramsey was not a religious man, he could easily become a Buddhist monk.”
Alf did not tell the players about the first team for the final in the first three days after the victory over Portugal. The agony ended in the evening before the final.
Alf liked Westerns
Ramsey loved Westerns and adventure films. He often took the players to the movies. He even shouted at them once: “Why are you messing around, the film started, John Wayne on the screen!”. The coach took the guys to “Air Adventures” before the final. And he approached unnoticed almost every one of the eleven before the film beginning: “If it helps you get enough sleep tonight, then you should know you’re in the first team.”
Alf finally fell asleep with piece of mind the night before the final. The first team issue was finally closed, the task completed.
Passionless Alf at the Finals
The outstanding coach made a short, cheerful speech in the morning, and then took the players to a light lunch with chicken, eggs and beans with toast.
Thousands of people lined up and waved British flags along the road from the hotel to Wembley. There was chaos in the stadium: TV men, officials were wandering in the locker room. Even a boy, who prepared tea, was running with an open book for autographs. Ramsey was not in a hurry to kick out this circus, because he wanted to distract the players from the excitement.
He remained passionless throughout the normal playing-time. Even when the Germans leveled the score a few seconds before the final whistle. The experts were indignant later, as Germany scored with a foul: the ball hit the Schnellinger’s hand.
Roger Hunt recalled: “We were all in shock. No one could believe what had happened. There was an instant feeling of emptiness. We thought we won, and then they scored. I immediately felt incredibly tired».
Before the final whistle
Players fell down on the grass, Alf was approaching them and he was furious. He looked very angry, shouted: “Get up, get up!” But then he changed expression abruptly:
“Look at the Germans. They are exhausted. It’s over. They are barely brought to life with a massage. You are better than they are. You won the world championship once. Now go and win it the second time.”
Fatigue gave way to determination.
When Hurst scored the fourth, the stands began chanting “Ramsey! Ramsey!”, but the coach remained indifferent and motionless.
The players jumped with joy, but Alf just told the triumphant assistant Shepherdson: “Sit down, Harold, do not hop around.” The coach also modestly missed honor lap, saying to his players: “This is your day! You did it, enjoy it».
Alf started finding fault with Charlton when the team reached the locker room: “Why the hell did you hit in that episode, and did not make a pass?” Shocked Bobby tried to justify himself: the ball was wet. Anyway Ramsey began to rejoice after emotional outpouring, congratulated the players, slapping them on the back and smiling.
“Alf received congratulations as calmly as if he won bronze at the gardeners’ competition when the press broke into the locker room 20 minutes later,” McKinstry wrote.
After match celebrations
The England team returned to the hotel to change into formal suits. They drank champagne there, laughed, tossed up the coach and went to an official banquet then. The drunken man blocked the bus, raising his hands up. When the bus stopped, he put his head in the door and started shouting “I love you.” There was a car across the roadway on the next side street and a young girl in a bright red mini-skirt was dancing on its roof.
The players did not like the banquet: it was a conservative party, where they were not allowed to call their wives. “But we have not seen our loved ones for six weeks. Even Jack Charlton began to look attractive after such a long period,” joked George Cohen.
The players quickly fled to a nightclub, having become bored among the officials. Jack Charlton woke up in the morning with a wild hangover in some strangers’ apartment on London outskirts.
Exhausted Ramsey retutned home
Ramsey went to the hotel to his wife Vicki: they chatted, ate and drank wine. “We could not stop talking. I do not know what I was thinking about when I was in bed that night. It was hard to fall asleep for a long time. I do not remember my thoughts, as they twisted in an erratic swarm. I continued wondering if this was true, whether we did it or not.”
Ramsey felt exhausted. Alf and Vicki had been hiding in their own house for seven days after the formal celebrations. And the phone was taken to the farthest room, where nobody could hear it.