Alf Ramsey was one of the cornerstones on which Arthur Rowe built his push-and-run side, as he brought a thoughtful approach to the game and slotted into the Spurs side Rowe was building to go on to great things. A dedicated servant of the club, his career developed into one which was solely down to the man putting his own ideas into practice and being alert enough to know exactly what would work ... something that ended with a World Cup win for England for the first (and so far only) time in the country's history.
There was always a determination to better himself and that ranged from the rumoured elocution lessons he had to lose his estuary accent through to a self-critical approach that made him strive for perfection in all that he did in his career. Even as a player, Alf had a tactical appreciation of other teams' play and this was something that helped him quickly develop as a manager after his playing days were over.
Alf was a well known name on the Essex schools scene and played his first game for Dagenham Schools against West Ham Schools at the Spotted Dog ground of Clapton FC, before he went on to represent the County side. He later went on to play for Five Elms FC, before signing amateur forms for Portsmouth, although he never played a senior game for the Fratton Park club.
In 1940, he was called up to serve in an anti-aircraft battery and played in a friendly against Southampton (losing 1-10), but a week later they over-turned the South Coast club and they were so impressed that they played him regularly throughout the war as an amateur and after a couple of spells back in service when he was posted away from the area, the Saints signed him up as a professional in 1944. Following a spell of service in Palestine and having featured in a number of positions when with the Saints during war-time, he settled in at right back, where he took the place of an existing England international, playing 93 consecutive matches from his entry into the team, but an injury in 1949 saw him lose his place to his colleague and disaffected, he asked to move on to play first team football.
It was in the summer of 1949 that he was bought by Tottenham for £21,000 (a record for a full back) and his presence in the side helped the club to promotion from the Second Division, with a first England cap coming in April of 1950 at Hampden Park against Scotland. Ramsey went on to captain his country too, when Billy Wright was unavailable.
Rowe's philosophy was a close fit to Ramsey's and the theory of building up from the back suited Alf's passing game, rather than the big boot up-field which most defenders employed. The season of Ramsey's signing saw Tottenham take the Second Division championship and the following season Spurs stormed through the First Division to take the title with their refreshing brand of football. During this time and until the time of his retirement, Alf Ramsey was more or less a constant in the team and became the player the captain who was at the heart of the team's play with an assured control of the tempo of the game from his position in defence. He could do this because of his understanding with goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn, who would throw the ball out to him and because his passing was accurate over short or long distances.
It was not just the offensive side of the game that he had a comprehension of, but his defensive brain also played a great part in his development as a player. Short on pace, he often had to rely on his ability to read the game to prevent his opponent either getting past him or getting the ball in the first instance. His positioning made sure that he snuffed out any threat from the other side's winger.
In 1955, after sustaining an injury that forced Sir Alf to retire from the game, he took to management with Ipswich Town and he took them out of the Third Division in his first season. It took him four years to get them out of the Second Division to reach the top flight for the first time in their history, where they won the championship at their first attempt. Such was the reverence that the Suffolk club held him in, they put up a statue on the corner of the block the ground stands on to commemorate his achievements.
His success brought him to the attention of the FA, who appointed him as England manager in 1962. It needs no reminding that he took England to be the World Cup winners in 1966 at Wembley, but following that, there was a World Cup quarter-final in 1970, but his failure to qualify for the World Cup finals of 1978 cost him his job and he left the world of management to become a spectator again.
His success in winning the World Cup earned him a knighthood in May 1967 for his services to football.
However, in 1975, he accepted Birmingham City's offer to become a Director of the club, offering footballing advice, but when the manager's position became vacant in November 1977 he jumped back into the hot seat.
Sir Alf Ramsey died in Ipswich, Suffolk, England on 28th April 1999.