“Stop that at once Ted, you’ll kill him.”... One sports writer’s Ipswich Town memories of Sir Alf Ramsey
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Sir Alf Ramsey was one of Ipswich Town and England’s greatest-ever managers. Some would say he WAS the greatest. Few reporters had the access to Sir Alf as former EADT/Ipswich Star and Green’Un editor TONY GARNETT enjoyed. Here are some of his memories
Alf Ramsey made an inauspicious start at Ipswich.
He lost his first match in Division Three (South) 2-0 at home to Torquay United in August 1955.
I was playing in a junior tennis tournament at Henley Road in Ipswich on that afternoon. It was not until Ipswich were in Division Two in 1960 that I first met Alf.
My sports editor, Alan Everett, had been kept waiting for an interview with Alf in the old wooden hut which served as the club offices. Everett had a short fuse and said that I should start to cover Ipswich Town for the East Anglian Daily Times.
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All the football has been documented many times but I have many personal memories of Alf, chairman John Cobbold and many of the players of that era.
Sometimes I would travel with the team by train and stay overnight with the official party in a hotel.
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On other occasions I would make my own way, at first on a BSA motorbike, and then by car.
One of those early matches was against Derby County at the Baseball Ground. It was an evening game and, by the time I had phoned my report, almost everyone else had left the ground. The lights were out.
My report was typed by the duty reporter who disliked football and had no knowledge of the names.
I found my way into the Derby County club office area, heard voices in the Board Room, and knocked on the door.
Derby County manager Harry Storer was standing at the head of the table with a bottle of whisky in his hand.
He was filling up John Cobbold’s glass and offered me one as well.
Alf was also there with his glass being topped up with gin. While Cobbold was drinking, Alf was pouring his gin into a flower vase!
There was no way he wanted his players to see him any the worse for wear when he returned to the hotel. Cobbold, Alf and myself walked back there together.
Storer was one of those great all-round sportsmen who played football for England and county cricket for Derbyshire.
If I had my car up north Alf would suggest that I take a player back to Ipswich with me for company. It was usually Doug Millward whose family lived in Sheffield and who we visited for a meal on the way home.
It may seem strange, but Alf was never a qualified FA coach. Millward, though, attended courses at Lilleshall. On his return Alf would pick his brains especially over free-kick routines.
Once, Alf asked for a lift himself. He was keen to get home early from the Midlands. The plan backfired.
We had reached the Minden Rose pub on the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds when we had a flat tyre.
Neither of us was any good with wheel braces.
We took refuge in the pub waiting for an RAC mechanic to arrive. Alf did not get home early as planned. He never travelled with me again.
Alf allowed to me to kick a ball around with any players who turned up for extra training in the afternoons.
I used the club changing rooms in the old cricket pavilion. Trainers Jimmy Forsyth and Charlie Cowie would fit me up with a shirt, shorts, socks and a dry towel. I brought my own boots.
Ted Phillips was reputed to have the hardest shot in football at the time. He challenged me to try to stop one of his penalties on the practice pitch.
I was foolhardy enough to accept the challenge.
I knew I was on a hiding to nothing but saving one would have been more than any League goalkeeper had managed to do in that period. Ted was simply hammering these shots with a heavy old leather ball. The first one whistled past my head.
Alf looked out of his office window some 40 yards away, saw what was going on, and shouted: “Stop that at once Ted, you’ll kill him.”
That story was told by strike partner Ray Crawford during the tribute he gave at Ted’s funeral in Colchester.
Alf seldom announced his line-up in time for publication in the newspaper although his winning team usually picked itself. His playing staff was small. Basic tactics remained unaltered from August to the following May.
Once, I spotted team changes for the weekend on the dressing room notice board.
My “inspired guess” in the East Anglian Daily Times match preview the next day was easy to write. Alf’s prickly comment was; “You’ve picked my team for me.” He was shrewd enough not to make an issue of it and, of course, I did not let him know how I had found out although he probably guessed.
Alf used to watch the Ipswich matches from the directors’ box. He believed the higher vantage point was better than being at ground level.
One problem was sitting next to chairman John Cobbold who would distract his concentration with juvenile jokes and puerile remarks. Alf would plead: “Please Mr John, I am trying to concentrate.”
Yet they got on well.
After Ipswich had beaten Aston Villa in the final match of the 1961/62 season and news came through that Chelsea had held Burnley to a draw at Turf Moor there was a strange episode.
After the Championship-winning euphoria at Portman Road had died down and spectators and players had gone home Alf said to Mr John, “Please take your regular seat in the directors’ box.”
He then removed his jacket and completed a solo lap round Portman Road especially for his chairman.....
THIS is just part of a longer feature of Tony’s memories which appear in the new edition of Kings of Anglia... £3.99 and available now at Planet Blue, Portman Road, the EADT offices in Portman Road, WH Smith, Tescos and most newsagents.
Or you can order a copy of Kings of Anglia online here £3.99 P&P in GB is free.