England’s World Cup win 50 years on: He dressed like a bank manager and was a man of few words – but when Sir Alf Ramsey spoke, people listened

Sir Alf Ramsey in his sparse Portman Road office

Sir Alf Ramsey in his sparse Portman Road office - Credit: Archant

Today is the 50th anniversary of England winning the 1966 World Cup. STUART WATSON spoke to Ipswich Town legend about what made Sir Alf Ramsey such a great manager

He was a man of few words, but when Sir Alf Ramsey spoke, people listened.

England’s World Cup-winning boss had a persona that was carefully cultivated. He took elocution lessons to lose his Dagenham accent, always dressed sharply and could seem aloof.

The ability to see talent where others couldn’t, combined with carefully-balanced man-management and thought-out motivation techniques, meant footballers would run through the metaphorical brick wall for him, though.

Ray Crawford was one of them.

Unceremoniously dumped by his hometown club of Portsmouth, aged 21, Crawford’s potential was seen by Ramsey. After two meetings in London, Ramsey eventually managed to persuade the youngster to move to Suffolk – a place that seemed a world away to him. The rest, as they say, is history.

Crawford’s goals helped fire Town to promotion, followed by a fairytale top-flight title in 1962. He became the unfashionable Blues’ first-ever England international and remains the club’s leading all-time scorer with 262 goals.

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“I think there were probably better players than me at the Town when I joined, but they didn’t listen to Alf and give him what he wanted – I did and he made me into the player I became,” says Crawford, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday.

“If you gave him everything, he would give you all his time. If you didn’t try, then he didn’t waste his time on you.

“One of the first things he told me was that I was a natural goalscorer. He said ‘What are you doing out on the wing? Get in the box and score.’

“His knowledge and memory of football was incredible. He’d study and memorise everything. His philosophy was to get the best out of what he’d got. At Ipswich we didn’t have many wide players so he played a system that didn’t have them. It worked for us and it worked for England too.”

Crawford continued: “I used to think he was like my bank manager. He was always so immaculately dressed, so precise and so exact. He’d pick his words and speak them slowly. Everyone listened.

“Alf was a man of few words, but he kept you on your toes. If you won on Saturday he would say to us all ‘that wasn’t good enough; I’ll see you on Monday’. If we lost, he would say ‘well done. Have Monday off. Take the wife shopping and I’ll see you all on Tuesday’.

“He wasn’t brutal, but he got straight to the point.

“You would go into his office annoyed about something and leave thinking ‘what was I so angry about?’

“I went in once and asked for a pay rise. He said ‘if I give you more, then I’ll have to give everyone else a rise too’. I said ‘yes, but I’m an England international’, and he said ‘only because of your team-mates’. He always had an answer.

“I only ever took two penalties for Ipswich and there’s a reason for that. I scored one against Huddersfield in the FA Cup, then against Bristol City I kicked the ground and it rolled straight to the keeper. Alf calmly told me afterwards that I would never, ever take a penalty for the club again. And I didn’t!”

It wasn’t all stick, but plenty of carrot, from Ramsey when it came to getting the best out of his players.

“Alf trusted us and treated us like adults,” says Crawford. “He knew we were sensible. We could drink as much as we liked up until Wednesday and then after that it was a ‘no drinks’ rule until after the match on Saturday.

“I think it was the Coach and Horses we used to drink at after the games. And we could drink! Wednesday night was always good. We’d go around all the countryside pubs, drinking and playing darts, raising money for blind charities.

“But when it was time to get back to work, we did, because we respected Alf. Of course, some people in the club didn’t like him, the ones that weren’t playing, but that’s the same with all managers.”

Crawford was the joint-leading goalscorer in the top division when Town won the title in 1962. Capped only twice by his country, he controversially wasn’t included in the Three Lions squad for the World Cup in Chile that year. The modern day equivalent would be Jamie Vardy being overlooked.

“I played in two internationals. In the first one I made a goal for Bobby Charlton. Alf told me off when I came back to Ipswich and said it should have been Bobby setting me up for a goal, not the other way around. I thought ‘thanks Alf!’ In the second game I scored, but at the end of that season I was told I wouldn’t be going to Chile.

“The manager was Walter Winterbottom then, but he didn’t pick the players. It was the directors of all the clubs who selected the squad. I don’t know why they didn’t pick me. Maybe it was because Ipswich wasn’t a particularly fashionable club.

“That all changed when Sir Alf took over in 1963. He politely told all these directors ‘Gentlemen, you do not pick the team anymore; that is no longer your concern’. He picked who he wanted to pick.”

Crawford continued: “I remember sitting in my house in Ipswich, watching us win the World Cup on television – it was fantastic.

“There was a painter and decorator doing the outside of my house at the time, Reg was his name, and I kept saying to him ‘come in and watch’, but he said ‘no, I’m too nervous – just tell me what’s happening’.

“When I look at that England team, it was a bit of a mishmash, really – big Jack Charlton was not really a centre-half, Bally (Alan Ball) was not a winger and Jimmy Greaves wasn’t fully fit. He got the best out of them, though.”

Looking back on that historic day 50 years ago, does Crawford have any regrets that his name is not now being mentioned in the same breath as Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and Bobby Moore?

“Not really, no – I was past it by that time,” he says. “I’d had my prime years – 1960 to 1965 was when I should arguably have got more caps.

“Alf knew what he wanted in his team and the style he wanted to play. I respected him and he didn’t owe me any explanations (for not picking me).

“I got a few injuries after 1965 and though I was still scoring goals I wasn’t as sharp. Maybe if Alf had been the manager from ’62 onwards it would have been different for me. Who knows?

“I saw him a few times around Ipswich when he was England manager and we always remained friends. I was sad when he got the sack and the way it happened.”

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