Pompey favourite lifts lid on Sir Alf

Ray Crawford, second from left, with Alf Ramsey, far right, in their Ipswich Town days in the early 1960s

Ray Crawford, second from left, with Alf Ramsey, far right, in their Ipswich Town days in the early 1960s

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HE WAS a man ahead of his time.

And a leader with the stubbornness which was the foundation of the greatest England side of them all.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup victory against Germany.

The players made themselves heroes with the 4-2 victory at the Empire Stadium in Wembley.

And Sir Alf Ramsey became a footballing god.

Former Pompey favourite Ray Crawford knew the man behind the Three Lions’ glory better than virtually anyone.

Ramsey was the brains behind Ipswich’s rise to the pinnacle of the English game.

Crawford’s goals took his side to the top flight and then to the title in 1961-62 – an achievement which sees him recognised as the club’s greatest player.

It wouldn’t have happened without Ramsey, though, a man with convictions which were to take him to the pinnacle of football.

‘He was very stubborn – a man who did it his way,’ said Crawford of Sir Alf.

‘If you didn’t do it his way you didn’t play.

‘We had a guy called Dermot Curtis at Ipswich who I thought was better than me all-round.

‘But he wouldn’t play Alf’s way, so he didn’t play.

‘Alf picked a team – individuals to play in a team set-up.

‘We all knew Jack Chartlon wasn’t the best centre-half at that time.

‘I was playing against players like him and Geoff Hurst at that time in West Brom’s side.

‘We all knew he wasn’t the best centre-half, but he was the best centre-half to do the job Alf wanted.

‘That’s what he wanted and how he picked players.

‘I can see how he won the England boys over because he had that stubbornness about him.

‘It’s like with Nobby Stiles. The directors said not to play him because he kicked someone up in the air.

‘He asked Nobby if he meant it? Nobby said no – so he said he’s playing in the next game! That’s how he’d be.

‘Alf was Alf and he wouldn’t let anyone to tell him who to pick or drop. Alf was Alf’s man.’

It wasn’t just the power of his beliefs which made Ramsey stand apart, however.

A shrewd approach to firing up his players was always a major weapon in his armoury, according to Crawford.

That didn’t mean the tea-cup throwing school of managerial motivation approach, though.

But Crawford believes some deep thinking helped give Ramsey’s England side the edge.

He said: ‘When we got to extra-time he wouldn’t let the players sit down – he told them to stand up and make them see we’re fitter than them.

‘He was ahead of his time in terms of psychology. That’s the way he was.

‘When he looked at you he could kill you with an eye.

‘He didn’t need to shout and bawl, he’d just look at you.

‘When Geoff Hurst was playing he said he’d see Alf next time after a game. Alf just said “Oh, will you?”.

‘He could cut you dead in three words like that!

‘He wouldn’t shout or bawl or throw cups of tea. He’d just talk.’

In the modern-day world of football soundbytes, we’ve grown accustomed to hyperbole and bluster from managers and players alike.

Ramsey was less abrupt with his public utterances – but that didn’t stop him stating he believed he could guide England to World Cup victory when appointed as England boss in 1963.

‘He really believed it,’ said Crawford of his old manager.

‘I bumped into him a couple of times before the World Cup, living in Ipswich.

‘We’d go places and he’d be there.

‘He felt if they played to his system and gave it 100 per cent we had more than a decent chance of winning it.

‘We believed it like he talked us into winning the First Division at Ipswich.

‘He laid down rules and regulations and said if we did this and that we had a good chance of winning.’

The memories of Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet trophy aloft remain vivid for Crawford to this day.

But they were ones he was concerned he may not have – thanks to the intervention of his then wife.

Fortunately, Crawford was able to join the rest of the nation in front of the box to see the crowning glory of Ramsey’s wingless wonders.

It was a triumph for the teamwork Ramsey placed such stock, according to his old charge.

Crawford said: ‘I can remember everything about the day perfectly, even down to my breakfast – two bits of toast and a cup of tea!

‘I was sitting there waiting for the game to start and my wife then, Eileen, said her hands were swollen.

‘She said the ring was cutting into her skin – and it was 1.30pm!

‘I had to take her to a jeweller to get the ring cut off! Luckily I made it back in time for the game.

‘We had great players.

‘There was Bobby Moore who was so elegant and such a good passer of the ball.

‘And there was Gordon Banks who had a great game and tournament. He was a fantastic guy.

‘But it was a win built on team play – that’s what Alf was all about.’

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