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Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly / No. 162: Feb 1965

Urgent: To Alf Ramsey esq…

By on 23 January 2015

Over the past 12 months, certain managers (rightly or wrongly) have come under fire. Alan Pardew at Newcastle, Sam Allardyce at West Ham and even Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

But even the very best have not been immune to severe scrutiny in the past. In this article from Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, February 1965, Pat Collins is seriously questioning (in a very polite and indirect fashion) Alf Ramsey’s ability to select the right England squad to contest the World Cup in England in 1966.

Club v country was clearly an issue then, just as it is now, and some of the names that Collins puts forward as his suggestions for players who must be included are very noticeable by their eventual absence (Waiters and Thompson never even made the squad let alone the team). It seems inconceivable now that Gordon Banks was looked on as number two keeper behind Tony Waiters.

We now know that Sir Alf was right to ignore the critics and stick to what he felt was the right way forward. England was so desperate to succeed in 1966 that it was hard even for the most level-headed of commentators, such as Collins, to sit back and trust that ‘Alf’ was moving the team in the right direction. The language is much more reserved than would be in today’s tabloids but the distinct air of disapproval is there to behold, even if Collins does attempt to distance himself somewhat from the criticism. We’ve also added one of our favourite pictures of an England training session. Click on the page image to zoom in and read the original article.

Dear Alf…

15-01-23 CB 162 07 FEB 65 collins

PAT COLLINS is getting worried about England’s chances in the 1966 World Cup, to be held here. So, he has written this letter to Alf Ramsey, the England team manager.

When you became England team manager, I welcomed the appointment. I felt you could handle the job as capably as any, better than most. Now, two years and 19 internationals later, you have my sympathy.

Here you are at the beginning of a four-month break from action by your team—until the match with Scotland at Wembley in April.

And you haven’t much time, have you, between now and the World Cup? We have been talking about the World Cup for so long, and July, 1966, may still sound quite a way ahead.

But I say that you MUST have your team ready for the start of our home international programme NEXT season. And, barring accidents and the very minimum changes, the team must play together stay together, if England are to make a show In 1966.

Right now I think you have only HALF a team to count on. And I’d be surprised if you didn’t think the same. In 19 games you have rung the changes 44 times. A sour critic of those changes remarked that the current boast of a player is that he DIDN’T have an England cap. On the other hand, few can say they haven’t had a chance.

England are still a long way from shaking down into a settled—and satisfying—combination.

The usual moans are going up that although the England hopefuls should be meeting regularly and plotting the future, League football and the clubs’ affairs are put before country. And that something should be done about it.

Of course, something should be done… but it won’t! It’s useless to thump tables—and typewriters—and point to the set-ups of rivals who will be descending upon us in the summer of next year.

Club interests DO come first That is final, established and immovably so. It will be so in our time. It’s one of the reasons for MY sympathy for you.

When you took over, remember, you said England could win the World Cup? Well, if you manage to find a team to do that you will be the sportsman of next year and every other year!

Fortunately, England are in the final rounds as the host country. The Scots, Irish and Welsh have still to make it.

I’ve been trying to sort out players who look most certain to figure in England’s World Cup Pool. It turned out to be a very short list.

Greaves … Waiters … Charlton (I’d consider him at centre-forward, too, Alf!) …Peter Thompson (because he can play either wing) … a fit Bobby Moore … Bobby Thomson (because he, too, can switch) … Banks (second goalkeeper) … Ray Wilson, a “must” if fully recovered. . . Venables (he will have matured).

I couldn’t stretch my list beyond that. Only in goal and at full-back, definitely at full-back, do I see you having free choice.

How you must envy Ian McColl with Denis law, Jimmy Baxter and Willie Henderson! Or the Irish with Georgie Best! When Len Badger, of Sheffield United gets his chance at right back, I expect to see him stay. The same goes for John Sissons, of West Ham. These are the two most exciting youngsters I’ve watched this season.

I’m not trying to tell you anything … you have already noted them, and centre-forward Mick Jones, Badger’s club-mate, and Alan Ball, of Blackpool.

Young men all, but growing rapidly each week as more experience comes their way. I’d like to see them “blooded” in the big time as soon as possible.

Then, if they show signs of matching, next season they can start in, or on the fringe of, the England team you feel is going to be near enough the one for the World Cup.15-01-23 CB 162 07 FEB 65 Ramsey pic

As I say, Alf, time is running out. You have to find the right link-up at inside forward and wing-half. And you have to decide soon whom you see as the best in those positions so that they get as much playing together as possible.

I don’t envy you your job. Good wing, halves or inside-forwards are hard to find. In fact, it is not now a case of finding but of deciding on the men from those you have tried, either in the full England or Under-23 team.

 The search is over now. And time is short. When we go into the same barren international waste next season we must know what England’s team will be for the following summer.

Sincerely,

PAT COLLINS.

 

15-01-23 CB 180 Aug 66 England 66 10in

 

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