Thursday, April 26, 2007

Alan Ball 1945-2007

I am not about to write about the late great sadly departed Alan Ball as if I knew him as a pal or followed his football career closely, for he was a 'World Cup Winner' 12 months before I was even born. However I have read much about him since his tragic death in the early hours of Wednesday morning to feel that without a doubt he more than deserves a succinct journalistic memoir in order to pay my respects.

Alan Ball's loss is as much England's loss as football's loss, judging by all the column inches devoted to him by the press since he collapsed of a heart attack at his Hampshire home on the 25th April at the age of just 61.
Ball will always be remembered for the part he played in England's only World Cup triumph. He was the youngest member of the team that lifted the Jules Rimet trophy at Wembley in on the 30th July 1966.

Born on Victory Day, 12th May 1945, Ball overcame early rejection in his career when Bolton told him he'd never be big enough to play football.
He joined Blackpool in 1962, and six weeks after the World Cup, Everton paid a then record fee of £110,000 for the all-action aggressive midfield maestro. He then helped the Toffees win the League Championship in 1970 before being transferred to Arsenal in 1971 for £220,000, another record fee at the time.
In 1975 Ball won the last of his 72 England caps, skippering England to a 5-1 demolition of Scotland at Wembley.
He signed for Southampton in 1976, before joining the North American Soccer League in 1978.
In 1980 he returned to England and had brief spells with Blackpool, Southampton and Bristol Rovers before hanging up his boots in May 1983 after 975 first-team games.

His managerial career never touched the heights he enjoyed as a player. He managed seven clubs in 19 years including Southampton, Manchester City and Pompey.
Despite the ups and downs he never allowed his enthusiasm for the game to waver. He loved football and he loved life.

In 2000 he was awarded the MBE for services to football.

Ball's other sporting passion was horses. He was a racing aficionado. He would talk endlessly about horse racing, and could often be spotted among the crowds on a summers day at Goodwood or on freezing winter days at Fontwell.

Off the pitch Alan was a devoted family man. He was married to his childhood sweetheart Lesley for 37 years. They had three children - Mandy, now 39, Keely, 35 and son Jimmy, 31.
Tragedy struck the family in 2004 when Lesley died of cancer aged 57.
Alan Ball had also suffered personal tragedy back in 1982, when his father died in a road traffic accident.

Alan Ball was a gentleman, a real man's man and his place in the folklore of the game and the heart of the nation is secure. He will be sadly missed.

Sincere condolences go out to his family.

Alan Ball - Rest In Peace.

*England's current players will wear black armbands as a mark of respect for Alan Ball in their first game at the new Wembley against Brazil on the 1st June.

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