IPSWICH TOWN WORLD CUP STORIES: Foundations for England’s 1966 success were laid in Portman Road
17:00 19 June 2014
Ipswich Town have a rich history in domestic football, but several who have donned the blue shirt, have also written their name into World Cup folklore.
Butcher, Mariner and Mills for England, the Scottish trio of Brazil, Burley and Wark, Republic of Ireland’s Matt Holland and current Town defender Tommy Smith, who represented New Zealand, have all played their part for their country.
More significant though were the roles of two legendary Blues managers, Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson. Ramsey left Ipswich but took with him his legendary coaching methods and led England to their 1966 success, while Robson came agonisingly close in 1986 and 1990, only being denied by Maradona in Mexico and four years later, by penalties, against West Germany, in Italy.
EADT and Ipswich Star writers STUART WATSON and CHRIS BRAMMER have spoken to several of those former players, while EADT and Ipswich Star editor-in-chief Terry Hunt and legendary scribe Tony Garnett have added their own memories in a series of World Cup articles for you to enjoy.
England’s World Cup success in 1966 could be attributed largely to the inspirational management of Sir Alf Ramsey, writes Tony Garnett.
He lifted Ipswich Town from the Third Division (South) to be champions of England in the space of eight years. He then led England to their greatest-ever triumph at Wembley Stadium. His formula, developed at Portman Road, was easily adapted to the world stage.
In those days almost every team at any level of football had flying, or in the case of Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney, immensely skilful wingers who hugged the touchline. They provided the ammunition for the strikers. They were marked by resolute full-backs who seldom ventured across the half-way line. During his time at Ipswich Ramsey began experimenting with a new style of play that would eventually provide to success in the World Cup and led to his England team being styled “The Wingless Wonders.”
Wingers were seldom known for their defensive qualities. Ramsey was prepared to drop them in favour of attacking midfielders who could also take on defensive roles. This system proved revolutionary. It baffled opposing full-backs who were unprepared for these innovative tactics. They were left bemused.
Alf first introduced the “deep wing” system at Ipswich. Roy Stephenson was on the right and Jimmy Leadbetter on the left. They provided the openings for Ray Crawford and Ted Phillips to hammer in the goals. It was something that full-backs had never encountered before.
England international George Cohen of Fulham, defeated 2-1 at Portman Road that season, said: “We were playing something I just didn’t recognise. I didn’t know who I should be marking.”Ipswich doubled Tottenham Hotspur, the reigning champions, on their way to the First Division title. Spurs manager Bill Nicholson was keen to combat the new Ipswich threat by instructing their midfield players to mark Stephenson and Leadbetter leaving the full-backs to deal with Crawford and Phillips. He was overruled by player power with Scottish international Dave Mackay insisting “Why change just to suit them? We are good enough to beat them playing our normal style.” They were not.
Spurs were defeated for a second time at White Hart Lane playing the same way as before. A report in a national paper on that Ipswich victory read: “Tottenham were occupying spaces where the game was not being played.”
Ramsey tried deep lying wingers in England’s friendly against Spain before the World Cup. Bobby Charlton recalls: “The Spanish full-backs were just looking at each other while we were going in droves through the middle”.
If full-backs moved upfield to counter the threat they would leave space to exploit behind them. If they stayed back they were virtually out of the game.
Ramsey used one orthodox winger in the 1966 World Cup group matches but kept his deep-lying tactics under wraps for the knock-out stages against Argentina, Portugal and West Germany.
Alf felt that football had become too rigid. He thrived on the “push and run” style adopted by Arthur Rowe at White Hart Lane. In his playing days he was known as The General because of his tactical acumen.
As a manager he was always aware of the limitations of his players, particularly at Ipswich, and devised a pattern of play never requiring any player to do anything of which he was not capable. He then selected his teams using the most suitable players to fit that pattern. They were not necessarily technically the best. They were the ones who would never question his strategy.
Although Alf could be difficult with the media and, it seems, with the top brass at the Football Association, he was always totally loyal and supportive to his players both at Ipswich and with England.