He’s fought every step of the way to make it
HOW good a coach is Chris Ramsey? A swift glance at the next Tottenham team sheet should tell you every- thing.
When the 53-year-old arrived at White Hart Lane as assistant to academy chief John McDermott in 2005, the last youth product to truly make the grade was Ledley King, by then nudging 26.
A decade on, you can barely move for homegrown talent; Harry Kane and Ryan Mason, Danny Rose, Nabil Bentaleb and Andros Townsend. Steven Caulker is on loan at Southampton, Jake Livermore a regular at Hull.
Most in the Premier League. Many of them internationals. All guided by the nurturing hand of Ramsey.
“He was massive for all of us,” says French midfielder Bentaleb, now 20. “He believed in us, he encouraged us. He told the manager we were ready when everyone else believed we were not. He was not shy or scared of anybody and he knew exactly what he wanted.” These days, those sentiments are echoed across the game. With an MSc, ten diplomas and myriad other qualifications, Ramsey is so highly educated that he actually sets the test for pro licence candidates.
Yet his entry into coaching was largely accidental and his route to the top littered with soul-sapping obstacles.
A decent, hard-tackling full-back nicknamed Rambo, Ramsey played for Charlton as a schoolboy and completed his apprenticeship at Bristol City before joining a Brighton side on the rise under Alan Mullery.
“He was quite a shy lad back then but he had everything you want in a full-back,” said team-mate Andy Ritchie. “Aggression, pace, agility – and he could tackle like a demon.”
Ramsey played in the 1983 FA Cup final defeat to Man United –“a special moment”, he said – but it would prove the zenith of his playing days.
Though a Division Four champion with Swindon under Lou Macari in 1986, niggling back injuries gradually robbed him of mobility and, by 1989, he was forced to retire at the age of 26.
“I thought I would be OK because I had a few little businesses going,” he said. “Unfortunately, I soon realised I’d overestimated my acumen. In the end, I had to get the boots out again within two years.”
Broke and directionless, Ramsey played for Maltese side Naxxar Lions, then Cocoa Expos, an amateur outfit in the United States. “I had to change something,” he said. “So I started studying.”
And how. Ramsey worked as a personal trainer in a gym, learned rehab techniques, put himself through courses on physiology and anatomy. He even hired a tutor to teach him maths so he could apply for university.
Next came a return to London and that Master’s course in Health, Physical Education and Recreation, followed later by his UEFA badges and a stint in charge of Leyton Orient Ladies.
“If I didn’t get a job because there was someone better, fine,” he said. “But there was no way I was going to allow anyone to tell me I was not qual--
SOMBRE: Ramsey is consoled after Brighton’s defeat in the 1983 FA Cup final