Football: Sir Alf Ramsey - Stiffest of stiff upper lips
Alan Hubbard says the spirit of Sir Alf's age was lost long ago
Sunday 02 May 1999
In his greatest hour - or rather two, when England won the World Cup in extra-time - he was the last to get to his feet though the first to embrace his cherished captain Bobby Moore. His features flickered momentarily as if to say "what's all the fuss?" and then he shook off the descending mob of back-slappers and encouraged his players to dance their jigs of joy.
Much later, in a rare moment when the mask slipped, he was to confide: "It is true I never showed any reaction. That's how it must have seemed on the outside but inside I was drunk and dancing. I know they say I am cold, that I do not have feelings, but I do. They are bottled up inside me. I suppose one day they will explode, and I shall die."
Well, dear old Alf has died, but the spirit of his age and the game he represented surely died long before him. Those of us fortunate enough to be roaming the sporting world in the Sixties will remember Alf with almost as much affection as we do the other greatest of that era, Muhammad Ali. We got everything from Ali but we got unsweet FA from Alf, so single- minded was his dedication to his players. But he always commanded our respect and, on occasions, even engendered our affection.
At least you were always sure of a straight answer even if more often than not it was "no". Yet when the fancy took him he could be engaging company. Years after the 1966 triumph I encountered him in Kuala Lumpur where, oddly rejected in his homeland, he was on a coaching stint. Never a happy traveller, Sir Alf, to my astonishment, greeted me like a long-lost brother. For three hours he relaxed and reminisced over lunch.
It was clear the years had not mellowed his football philosophy. He still preferred graft to guile and when we talked of Glenn Hoddle, he sniffed: "Would you want him on your side in the trenches?" Who would have thought that Hoddle would have been reincarnated as Ramsey's successor?
You always knew when Sir Alf was angry because he reverted to the dropped aitches of his pre-elocution lesson days as a player when, on occasions, he could be a bit of a lad himself. It is hard to imagine now that the precise, correct Ramsey once climbed on to a table at a Tottenham banquet, kicked off his shoes and did an impromptu knees-up as he belted out "Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner".
As one of the game's foremost foot soldiers he took no prisoners. Once he was asked whether he was playing when England were routed by the Hungarians. "Yes," he retorted tersely, "and I was the only one who was."
The stories about Alf's xenophobia are legion and invariably true. He was never one to tolerate foreigners, fools, or foolish footballers gladly - even less the old farts of the Football Association. He once ordered the FA chairman out of the players' lounge in the team hotel because he was smoking a cigar. "I will not have you puffing smoke into my players' faces."
Of course, the old farts got him in the end, sacking him a month before his contract expired in 1974. His salary was just pounds 7,500 and his ex-employers never attempted to use his talents in any other capacity; nor indeed did they ever call upon Moore's ambassadorial ability. For, unlike the commander and the captain, while they ran the game they never really knew how to play it.
One hopes that at least now they will have the decency to organise a suitable memorial at the new Wembley for the two giants they were so quick to forget.
Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts
Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets
George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios
Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?
Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination
Latest in Sport
Luis Suarez: Lionel Messi is better than Cristiano Ronaldo
Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies from spine injury after doing somersault celebration
West Brom vs Manchester United: Latest score and Twitter updates, with Stephane Sessegnon, Marouane Fellaini, Saido Berahino and Daley Blind on target
Arsenal vs Hull: Gary Lineker and Piers Morgan lead criticism of Arsene Wenger after 'uncomfortable' interview with Jacqui Oatley
Adel Taraabt criticism from QPR boss Harry Redknapp sparked by player walking out of team meeting prior to Liverpool game
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake report claiming the street artist's identity has been revealed
- 3 Are you ready for Crazy Doritos, the red-hot snack food craze sweeping Mexico’s streets?
- 4 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 5 Former East 17 frontman Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
Lord Freud: Tory welfare minister apologises after saying disabled people are 'not worth’ the minimum wage
£65 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: A full time Higher Level Teaching...
£90 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Reception Primary Teacher in Bra...
£110 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: English Teacher needed for ...
£90 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: NQT and Experienced Primary Teac...