Football: `Alf Ramsey gave England its greatest moment'

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The Independent Online
SIR ALF RAMSEY was hailed as "the greatest manager England ever had" last night by the men who played under him during English football's finest two hours, the World Cup final of 1966.

"We've lost probably the best England manager we've had so far and it's a pity people didn't realise that all those years ago," George Cohen, a member of the Cup-winning side, said. Sir Alf died on Wednesday at the age of 79 from pancreatic cancer.

"Sir Alf was a very nice man," Cohen added. "He was a private man and also a great deal of fun, he was always very good company. He brought some real discipline to the England football team, but that is not to say he went around stamping his feet.

"It was a quiet authority and we knew where we were with him. He treated everyone like adults. I'll never forget the way he turned it all around at full-time in the World Cup final.

"When we had the game won, but defended badly in the last few seconds. He got us round and said, `We've already won this game once, so go out and win it again'."

Sir Alf's finest moment came before the half hour of extra time after Wolfgang Weber's last-minute equaliser had seemingly robbed England of victory. "Look at them," Ramsey said to his England players, pointing at the German opposition. "They're finished." The response was immediate, with two goals from Geoff Hurst - later Sir Geoff - completing a hat-trick and ensuring immortality not only for the striker but also for Sir Alf.

Sir Bobby Charlton, another member of the 1966 team, said yesterday: "I couldn't be more upset if it was family. Alf Ramsey gave all of us in the football business the greatest moment we have ever had as players, as coaches, as managers as fans and as officials. He was professional to his fingertips and as popular with the players as any manager I've ever seen."

Sir Bobby was one of only two players who appeared in Sir Alf's first game and survived to World Cup final, the other being Bobby Moore. "He'd give you a fair crack of the whip. You were eager to do well for him," Sir Bobby added.

"He'll go down in history for putting together the 1966 World Cup winning team but there was more to Sir Alf than that," Roger Hunt, another member of the World Cup-winning side said. "He was a fantastic manager throughout his career and we all respected him greatly. It's a very sad day."

Gordon Banks, the England goalkeeper in the World Cup final, said: "This is dreadful news. It's a great shock to me. I really do feel for his wife and family. All of us in the 66 team were very close to Alf. He was a great man as well as a great manager. He came across on radio and television as a bit dour but he wasn't like that at all.

"He was very strict doing his job but he was a lovely man. He was always ready to have a laugh with the lads. We could always draw him out a bit. He could be regarded as the greatest England manager of all time. He is still the only one to win the World Cup for England. But it wasn't just that - he achieved a lot with a small club like Ipswich on a small budget. He'll be a big loss to the game."

Frank Lampard Snr, West Ham's assistant manager who won his first England cap under Sir Alf, said: "He was the greatest manager England ever had. He was a disciplinarian but he didn't go round shouting and bawling, he did it with his eyes. I'll never forget just before I made my England debut he said to me, `Did you know you're the first player to play for England who has got a beard.' I think he expected me to get it cut off but he said it with a smile."

Sir Alf played 31 times for England before going on to manage the national team from 1963 to 1974. He was knighted in 1967. Before taking the England job, he had coached Ipswich to the League championship in 1962 in their first season in the First Division. In his playing career he was regarded as one of the most cultured defenders to play in the England side. Sir Alf also won 32 England caps as a full-back, playing alongside Sir Stanley Matthews, who said yesterday: "He will be missed - we played together for England and he was a man who followed the game really well."

Alan Mullery, the former England captain said: "Once when England were playing Brazil in the great Maracana stadium, I was meant to be marking Pele. Alf saw me looking nervous and said to me `if you were not good enough to play against this fella you would be back home watching it on the telly'. It helped me, and I went out and played one of the best games I have ever played. I don't think we'll see one like him again."

Don Howe was capped 23 times under Sir Alf's predecessor, Walter Winterbottom. Howe was called up as substitute for Sir Alf's first match in charge of England in France, and said yesterday: "I remember being called up as a late replacement for Alf's first game in France. We lost 5-2 but he handled it so coolly. Just the way he was when we won the World Cup. He always kept hold of himself emotionally. Alf was a wonderful man and a terrific player and manager."

Peter Osgood, who won three of his four England caps under Ramsey, said: "I was very, very sad to hear about his death. I suppose you might say I should be one of the people who ought to be saying I'm not sad.

"I only won three caps under him and Alf wasn't keen on flair players like myself, Frank Worthington, Tony Currie and Alan Hudson. But Alf was a lovely, lovely man.

"He was wonderful to work with. I remember when he was managing me in the England Under-23s, we had a game against Russia at Everton.

"Because Joe Royle was on the bench Alf said to me at half-time, `Ossie ,will you please go into midfield,' not `Ossie you are going into midfield.'

"Then during the 1970 World Cup he said `Ossie, do you fancy training today? I said `no' and he said `well, you bloody well are'."