Ray has no regrets, just thanks for the memories

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in Euro 2012 action against France
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in Euro 2012 action against France
Gaffer for a day Josh Sweetman wants to se Conor Chaplin start against Walsall

Pompey v Walsall: Gaffer for a day

7
Have your say

It was an England debut which warranted a Sir Alf Ramsey tongue lashing while sat in a car travelling back to Ipswich.

What’s more, Ray Crawford was being lambasted for conjuring up the equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland.

And Ramsey wasn’t even England manager at the time.

While Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the latest local boy to take to the international stage, one of his peers fondly recalls his adventures from 50 years ago.

Crawford and the Arsenal youngster are among five players from Portsmouth who have represented England – the others being Reg Flewin, Peter Harris and Steve Foster.

Back in November 1961, the then-Ipswich striker was granted his England bow by Walter Winterbottom in a Wembley fixture with the Irish.

His second and final appearance was in April 1962, netting in a 3-1 friendly triumph over Austria.

Since that moment, only Foster, with three caps, and now Oxlade-Chamberlain have emerged from the city to follow in Crawford’s footsteps.

Now aged 75, the former Pompey and West Brom centre-forward still fondly recalls both his appearances representing his country.

Including that angry lecture from the future World Cup winner and Crawford’s then-Ipswich boss Ramsey.

He said: ‘I actually found out I had been called up for England for the very first time while shopping in Ipswich.

‘I bumped into Reg Pickett, who was a team-mate and also had been at Pompey, and he broke the news to me. I thought he was pulling my leg.

‘Earlier, he had driven past my house and noticed there were lots of people waiting in front of it.

‘So I went back and not only were reporters on my front doorstep but so was Ipswich chairman John Cobbold, who had a bottle of Champagne.

‘Anyhow, in the week leading up for the Northern Ireland game, we had a kickabout against Fulham’s reserves and kids for an hour.

‘It was a joke. I could not believe how bad it was.

‘I actually found that first game quite difficult but managed to set up the equaliser when I broke from the half-way line and went on to cross for Bobby Charlton to score.

‘Alf Ramsey was there watching and gave me a lift home.

‘He was a great man. He once helped me find a place to live, taking me around five different properties!

‘So there I was in the car and I can tell you I got a rollicking from him for my England performance.

‘He told me I was running around too much.

‘He said I should have been the one putting that ball into the net and not creating it.

‘Apparently, Johnny Haynes should have been doing that, not me.

‘I didn’t have a chance – you could never win an argument with Alf!

‘My next appearance came five months later against Austria and I scored.

‘John Connelly went down the line and I whacked his cross in right footed.

‘I played far better and didn’t do as much running around.

‘I never played for England again, though!’

To date, Oxlade-Chamberlain has never played a match at any level for his home-town club, making his name at Southampton after joining their academy at the age of eight.

Crawford at least made 19 appearances, scoring nine goals in the process, before being sold to Ipswich for £6,000. He went on to become the Tractor Boys’ first-ever England international when selected for that Northern Ireland game in 1961.

Not that Crawford was impressed with the man who granted him that honour – Winterbottom.

He added: ‘I was sat there 20 minutes before the game and Winterbottom came up to me and said “just go out there and play like you do for Ipswich”.

‘That was it. That was our team talk.

‘It was very disappointing. I was expecting to be told what to do. Then again, I was spoilt with Alf.

‘You see, Winterbottom didn’t think he had the experience to tell the players how to play.

‘The truth is, that does not really matter.

‘You’ve just got to get your ideas across.

‘I remember one time at Ipswich, we were at home to Everton and I walked through the gates and bumped into Winterbottom.

‘He suddenly started going on about forwards defending and how Jimmy Greaves was not doing that job well.

‘Blimey, Greaves was 5ft 5in and the best goalscorer around – and the England manager was criticising his defending!

‘That summer the World Cup was being held in Chile and I thought I was going.

‘I had made my England debut, was the leading goalscorer in the first division and had won the title with Ipswich.

‘Yet, Alan Peacock from Middlesbrough went instead.

‘I scored 33 goals that season – he had 18. Still, I had my two England caps.

‘They’re in the bank now. They’re worth far too much to keep around the house.

‘Some people never get the chance to play for England – thankfully, I did.’