Division One 1961-62

Alf Ramsey's original "wingless wonders" win Division One at the first attempt having only been promoted the previous season, recalls Geoff Wallis

The long-term significance
The champions of the Second Division in 1960-61, Ipswich Town repeated the feat by winning Division One the following year, in their first top-flight season (a unique achievement, discounting Preston’s inaugural championship).

Alf Ramsey’s team cost a mere £30,000; £12,000 of that had been spent on bringing inside forward Dougie Moran from Falkirk. Striker Ray Crawford would play twice for England that season, but the side contained no other internationals. Ipswich were the prototype for the “wingless wonders” 4-3-3 formation developed by Ramsey during his England years. Former inside-forwards Roy Stephenson and James Leadbetter played as wide midfield men, moving the ball quickly into space for Crawford, Moran and Ted Phillips to capitalise on.

Story of the season
Burnley, the 1959-60 champions, ran in more than a century of League goals in 1961-62 and, adding to their disappointment, also lost to Spurs 3-1 in the FA Cup final. Though galvanised by their playmaker, Northern Ireland international Jimmy McIlroy, it was their captain, half-back Jimmy Adamson, who was voted Footballer of the Year. Adamson went to the 1962 World Cup in Chile as Walter Winterbottom’s assistant.

Stan Cullis’s Wolves, champions in 1958 and 1959, now slumped to 18th. Spurs, Double winners in 1961, were distracted perhaps by their pursuit of the Treble: as well as finishing third and retaining the FA Cup, Bill Nicholson’s side reached the European Cup semi-finals, losing 4-3 to Benfica. No other London side would reach the last four until Chelsea in 2004.

The Ipswich trio of Crawford, Moran and Phillips scored respectively 33, 13 and 28 goals and, discounting own goals, only three other players also scored.

The champions were assisted by a lack of injuries since all of Ramsey’s chosen first team played in at least 37 of the season’s 42 games. Their only real hiccup was a 5-0 defeat at Old Trafford in April, but eight points from the following five games secured the title.

For the record books
Ray Crawford and West Brom’s Derek Kevan shared the honours as the First Division’s leading scorers. Brian Clough ran in 29 goals in the Second, though some way short of the total of the 41 scored by Roger Hunt of Liverpool and Barrie Thomas (31 for Scunthorpe, ten for Newcastle), which was just one fewer than Brighton managed while being relegated to the Third.

Chelsea were relegated seven seasons after their sole League title, though London still had five teams in Division One the next season thanks to Leyton Orient’s promotion.

Same place today

Only Arsenal and Everton have remained in the top division throughout the last 43 years, though Liverpool were promoted as Second Division champions this season.

Moved furthest away
Blackpool, who were last in the top flight in 1971, plummeted to 21st in Division Four in 1982-83. Wolves took slightly longer to reach the basement and have bounced back further. Burnley narrowly avoided relegation to the Conference in 1987, though were two goals and one place from the play-offs for a Premiership place in 2002.

Went on to greater things
David Pleat – the future Luton legend (right) made his debut on the wing for Nottingham Forest.
Club scouts – were given permission to lurk around playing fields and approach teenage starlets before they had left school at the age of 15.
Johnny Byrne – became the first Third Division player to be picked for England in October, helping to earn a March move from Crystal Palace to West Ham for £65,000, a record for a deal between English teams.
Jimmy Greaves – came back from Milan in December for £99,999 and went on to score 20 goals in 22 games this season for Tottenham.

Disappearing from view
Spectators – overall gate returns were down by 750,000 compared to 1960-61, with Spurs suffering the worst home aggregate attendance loss of some 163,000 (approximately 4,000 a game).
Cardiff City – relegated and, more than 40 years later, still waiting to return to the top.
Johnny Haynes – after helping Fulham stay up by a single point, the England captain played his final international in the World Cup in Chile.
Don Revie – the Leeds player retired to concentrate on being their manager, after his side only narrowly survived in Division Two.

From WSC 213 November 2004. What was happening this month

Comments (2)
Comment by cosmicjellybaby 2009-07-29 19:18:51

what about Forest in 78? Does their achievement not count, or is ipswich's achievement to have won div 2 and then div 1 consecutively, rather than merely winning promotion, then winning the title the following year? Great stuff by the way!

Comment by Hot Orange 2010-04-10 12:06:34

Ipswich's unique achievement was to win the league in their first ever season in the top flight. Forest had been in the first division before.