9 - Team Spirit
Alf Ramsey said a long time before the tournament began that England would win the World Cup. On tour in Scandinavia prior to the World Cup he watched Sweden play Brazil, then came back and told us: “Gentlemen, we don’t have to worry about Brazil. They’re too old, too young and nothing in the middle. They will not progress.” He did say, though, that the ones to watch were the Argentines, and he was right on both counts.
As I said, we had a quiet confidence. But that belief had a lot to do with the type of manager Alf was. He didn’t demand discipline, he commanded it. Yes, he was a disciplinarian, but he understood footballers, primarily because in his day he was a very good one.
I was lucky, at club level with Fulham, I shared a dressing room and pitch with some wonderful characters – as a team we went through everything together, the highs and the lows. It was the same with England, too, which is unusual considering, with the exception of international matches, we didn’t spend a long time together.
But very quickly, Alf got rid of any cliques. You couldn’t have people doing their own thing; everybody has to be singing from the same hymn sheet and again, that was a very significant factor because it’s a vital ingredient to a successful tournament. We’ve seen it happen to a lot of teams over the years, they go away for a big competition, the pressure builds and they implode. It doesn’t matter how talented the players are, you need to have cohesion – every player needs to work as hard as they can.
I made a lot of good friends in that team. I didn’t know Bobby Moore very well, I’d played with him for England’s Under-23s a few times, but as roommates we became close. Not only was he one of the game’s greatest defenders, he was also a gentleman. As our captain, we had the upmost respect for him.
But that respect ran throughout the team, and I think that camaraderie was evident throughout the tournament. As a group we were pushed to the limits at times, and there were a lot of things that went on – things that tested each and every individual. As the host nation, we were under immense pressure to perform and ultimately that ethic and spirit took us all the way.
Head back to the official website on Wednesday as George continues his countdown…