Football: Aloof, astute, composed, loyal

SIR ALF RAMSEY, 1920-1999: We all had great respect for him... We were a very tight-knit group and Alf was our leader

LOYALTY AND respect. These are the words that sum up Sir Alf Ramsey. Loyalty and respect to and from his players.

I was Alf's first captain when he took over the national side in succession to Walter Winterbottom in 1963 and he was a brilliant manager.

How good was he? He's the only Englishman to win the World Cup, so top that. I know people say we were at home and that was an advantage but we have been at home in tournaments since and we haven't won them.

I remember we lost his first match in charge 5-2 to France. The pitch was like ice and the game shouldn't have gone ahead but we had not played well and I always remember he came up to me afterwards and asked `Do we always play like that?' From that moment on it was always progress.

From the outside Alf appeared to be an aloof figure who was never comfortable with the media and who cultivated an "us and them" attitude within the England camp. From within, the impression was much the same but somehow he won and retained the affection of his charges even though he kept the walls up.

He was a very astute man who didn't waste words. He could be quite terse and didn't suffer fools gladly but he was very loyal with the players and they respected him for that.

He knew what he wanted and from that point it was him and us and the rest could please themselves.

Sir Alf never courted publicity and he had a high profile only because of what he achieved. Even when England won the World Cup he never chased headlines. He was a very private man who preferred to keep himself to himself.

We all had great respect for him and I always felt he respected me and I suspect all the other players felt the same. We were a very tight-knit group and Alf was our leader.

I won 43 caps at full-back between 1959 and 1966, but lost the international captaincy to Bobby Moore. I was a member of the 22 who won the World Cup 33 years ago.

I was injured just before the tournament and lost my place to George Cohen. Of course, it was hard to sit and watch and not play. But the team spirit among the players who were not in the team was very good and I remember he used to involve me, Bobby Moore and Harold Shepherdson (Ramsey's assistant) in the decision making. He made me feel part of it.

During the World Cup he kept his composure even when we won it. He was happy of course but he didn't lose his cool. The only time he lost it was after we played Argentina when I think he described them as "animals", but apart from that he was always in control.

Sir Alf adopted a 4-3-3 formation to fit the players rather than the other way round. At the time "the wingless wonders" were considered a tactical gamble but the results proved him otherwise.

Tactically he was very astute. It was his decision to drop the wingers and that was at a time when we had some very good ones like Terry Paine, John Connelly, Peter Thompson and Ian Callaghan. He also left out Jimmy Greaves, which can't have been an easy decision but he was proved right. He picked the team and the team thought the world of him.

Alf may have been fortunate in the players he had at his disposal but that does not detract from his achievements. To be absolutely honest we had a very strong group of players, in my opinion the best England have ever had. Players like Gordon Banks, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst would have got into the world team at the time and there have not been many occasions when we've been able to say that.

He still had to pick the players, build a team, decide the tactics and choose who to leave out. He was a brilliant manager.

Jimmy Armfield captained England and was capped 43 times. He is now on the Technical Committee of the FA, the coaching arm of the PFA and is a journalist and broadcaster

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