James Lawton: Language barriers? Even Ramsey had his problems on that front

Any difficulties with the spoken word would in the long run be dwarfed by his football knowledge

Now that open season has been more or less officially declared on Fabio Capello it may be some small consolation to him that difficulties with the English language were not entirely foreign to the greatest of his predecessors.

Sir Alf Ramsey, a Dagenham man dedicated from an early age to self-improvement, was so sensitive about his working-class accent he went to elocution classes. This did not, however, impair his authority when he unveiled the 4-3-3 system that went so far towards winning England the 1966 World Cup.

Ramsey certainly had enough of Capello's magical 100 words – the number England's current manager this week suggested was sufficient to transmit vital tactical messages to his players – to get his point across in or out of the dressing room.

Results away from the football field, though, could be uneven. Before a friendly match with Morocco he told a television interviewer that, "Most certainly [a favourite phrase], we will treat these 'Morocians' with great respect."

In a follow-up question the interviewer rather pointedly referred to Moroccans. Ramsey frowned, then pressed on, "As I said, we will not take anything for granted against these Moricians – or whatever you call them."

Ramsey was always underpinned – as Capello no doubt will be whatever the outcome of his embattled stint in control of England – by the fact that any difficulties with the spoken word would in the long run be dwarfed by his knowledge of the game. This, though, didn't always prevent some edgy moments with some of his more waspish critics.

In the wake of that unveiling of the World Cup-winning system in a friendly match in Madrid, one of those assailants persistently challenged Ramsey's vision of the new England during an informal gathering back at the team hotel. Ramsey took off his immaculately tailored suit jacket, folded it carefully and then asked his tormentor outside. Is Il Capo nearing such a flashpoint? The best guess is probably not.

Ramsey saved a lot of his ire for the Scots. When one Scottish reporter greeted him on arrival in Glasgow with the words, "Welcome to Scotland," the England manager's response was well modulated but curt. "You must be fucking joking," he said.

A rather more civilised debate occurred in the back of a London cab shared by Ramsey, George Best and the distinguished sports writer Hugh McIlvanney, the exiled Scot who last Sunday had to remind some of his compatriots en route to the Emirates for the Scotland-Brazil game that Lowlanders tended not to wear kilts.

When McIlvanney made a point that wasn't entirely to Ramsey's liking he was asked, rhetorically, "and how many caps have you won, Mr McIlvanney?"

"No one respects experience more than I do," responded McIlvanney, "but experience is relevant only in relation to the intelligence exposed to the experience. If you send a turnip around the world it still comes back a turnip – not an expert in geography."

"Words, words, just words," said Ramsey. "Aye," said McIlvanney, "but they are quite useful if you want to say something."

There is, however, an important footnote. McIlvanney, as it happened, was a great admirer of Ramsey's professional capacities and never questioned the depth of a great football man's ability to speak the language of his game. Such courtesy, unfortunately, is not so apparent in the hounding of Fabio Capello.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea