Monday, April 30, 2007

Alan Ball. A trailblazing modern footballer - Margin

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.


pipita said...

Really enjoyed this Margin. Ballie must rank amongst my all time Everton favorites. What marvelled me about him was his versatility as a player, capable of running all over the pitch, playing and tackling, like he did in 66, and also capable of generating football with his passing and scoring ability. At Everton he often finished the season as second highest scorer usually behind Joe Royle. It says a lot about his skills that George Best, who apparently co-owned a horse with him, always insisted that Man U should buy him. Actually saw him play for Arsenal with em white boots, but had no clue that in reality they were fake

offside said...

And what a name! What. A. Name.

duncan said...

Great stuff Margin. Ta!

I enjoyed watching Alan Ball play for Everton on (I think) a couple of visits to the Baseball Ground, back in the day.

Margin said...

Glad people enjoyed this. A lot has been said about Ball as a player recently and there wasn't much I could add to that.

But its been odd hearing warped ideas from people using him as a stick to beat modern footballers with - It almost sounds as though he was some sort of impoverished monk character.

And that's just wrong. He was of course as enthusiastic about life as a young man as he was about football.

Margin said...


The baseball ground? never heard of it. That on planet vulcan or somink?

Ebren said...

Margin - Derby were around before Pride Park was.

Emma said...

Well said, Margin.


Margin said...

ebren and emma

I did hope that mentioning Vulcan would hint at my sarcastic knock at the English game's loss of old grounds. Duncan will know what it means.

Margin said...

since duncan didn't come bak I'll explain.

The Baseball Ground was on Vulcan Street.

gg said...

Nice reading, Margin!

Alan Ball and I were the same age. He made 1966 a very special year.

I see Franny Lee and Alan as the last of the Lancashire lads that you could imagine bumping into on your own back street and having a natter about footy, Red Rum, pigeon-fancying, crown-green bowling or the latest episode of Corry.

duncan said...

Near Spock's office...?

MotM said...

Catching up with pseuds after fearful working hours and it's stuff like this that make me find the time.

Really fine appreciation of the man, all the better for its highlighting of the foibles of human nature.

I've always thought that 100 footballers would represent 100 men better than any demographic weighting by MORI. This article shows why.

Tweet it, digg it