Dave Mackay was the most gifted player in the Spurs double winning side, and once described life after 61. The players, he said, ceased to be the men they were. They became ‘The Double Winners.’ - Superstars of a whole new order.
The modern footballer was effectively born as they ‘cashed in’ with free suits from London tailors and other such modest benefits. Alan Ball was 16 at the time, and probably wasn’t watching very closely.
In 1966 eleven men ceased to be men and became ‘The World Cup Winners’. This time Alan Ball was among them aged just 21.
As the youngest player there, and as man of the match in the final, Ball became a superstar with his career still ahead of him. A record transfer quickly took him from Blackpool to Everton, giving him a chance to win trophies.
The trophies came and Everton lifted the title in 1970, in part thanks to incredible form from the fantastic Alan Ball. He had by now evolved into a much more complete player than that fast running, hard working kid of 1966.
Sadly England then flopped in the 1970 World Cup. With high expectations the side went out in the quarter finals. And on the back of international let down, Ball cashed in.
Hummel had a new boot to publicise, and £2000 to do it with. That figure could have bought a family home in 1970, and Alan Ball offered his services. All he had to do was wear unusual boots and the money was his.
Of course he didn’t wear the boots for long. He took the money but continued to play in Adidas boots as the Hummel ones were uncomfortable. To con his sponsor he had an apprentice paint his own boots white. Then when it rained the game was up. He had to give the cash back.
Having won the title at Everton, Ball left a year later for new champions Arsenal who became the second side to break transfer records for him. He played there for several seasons, enjoying the highs of London life and splashing out on suits that Mackay might have envied.
While his club performances were great, the England side was poor. They suffered ignominy by failing to qualify for the 1974 World Cup.
By 1978 he had dropped down a league to play with Southampton. His was a key role in their promotion that year, and during this time he took to gambling. It was a habit he latter encouraged in others, taking his teams as manager to race courses to build team spirit.
And that was Alan Ball. He didn’t stay with Blackpool all his life. He did cash in on his fame and status. He gambled his riches on horses. And he celebrated the high life while it lasted.
He was a modern footballer in every sense. And he was all the more fantastic for it.