Yet another disappointing and inept performance against Stoke has got me to the point where I need desperately to wax lyrical about the good old days, and in particular about a man who lived and breathed passion in a royal blue shirt. Sadly, passion is something which does not appear to be present in great abundance these days, but Alan Ball – arguably (but with absolute certainty in my mind) the greatest player ever to grace Goodison's hallowed turf – had lashings of it.
We lost him far too early, both as a player at Goodison and from this earth. Approaching both the anniversary of his passing in April and the 70th anniversary of his birth on 12 May, my thoughts hark back to the fiery redhead, the winning mentality, and the blood-and-guts attitude which epitomised his play. A better one-touch passer with telescopic vision you'll never see. A box-to-box player with a V8 engine and endless stamina. And he scored goals in abundance. The complete midfielder. I'd love to see his Opta stats compared to today's prima donnas. And I'm sure he had Nil Satis Nisi Optimum carved into his chest.
His temperament got him into trouble more than once but he was a winner through and through by giving 100% every game, wearing his heart on his sleeve. And we loved him to bits for it. Tales abound of his tears in the dressing room after losing games and it being seen as a weakness in his leadership. On the contrary, it only reinforces the fact that he cared, that he hated to lose, something we're crying (excuse the pun) out for nowadays.
I remember, as a 12-year-old, going to the last game of the season v Sunderland, May 1967. We tore them apart 4 - 1. Johnny Morrissey of all people grabbed a hat-trick but Bally ran the show and capped it all late on by sitting on the ball at the edge of their box and beckoning them to come and get it off him. Crowd pleaser or what? Pity the Sunderland players couldn't catch him. Those white boots were lightning fast!
I had the pleasure and immense privilege of meeting him for the only time at a sportsman's dinner many years later at Goodison Park where he was sharing the platform with Howard Kendall and Colin Harvey. Afterwards, I went over to have a word with him. I became a 12-year-old again even though I was in my 50s. Sadly, hero worship got the better of me and I only managed to splutter some gibberish about him being my boyhood hero. What he must have thought I'll never know but, whatever it was, he didn't show it and I left with a handshake and best wishes. I didn't wash that hand for a fortnight.
The incomprehensible decision by Harry Catterick to sell Bally at his peak (other than it supposedly being a good piece of financial business and turning a profit) we'll never fully work out... but it was the most gut wrenching transfer I and many thousands of Evertonians will ever experience. The downhill path started at that point and lasted for the next 12 years until we experienced success again in the mid-80s.
So here we are, over 40 years after Bally was forced to leave the club he loved. What we'd give now for another in the same mould to lead us to some success and demonstrate what it means to represent this great football club.
Thanks for the memories, little man. Have a good rest. You deserve it.
Reader Comments (73)
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1 Posted 11/03/2015 at 16:38:19
He hated losing and loved winning Â– a few of our players could do with adopting the same attitude. But different eras and all that, now the players don’t seem to enjoy any aspect of the game itself and appear to be doing a job of work rather than providing entertainment for the masses.
2 Posted 11/03/2015 at 17:06:50
3 Posted 11/03/2015 at 17:05:12
But Catterick did make the odd strange decision. Remember Trebilcock getting the nod in 1966. And it worked out okay. And selling Ernie Hunt. Who I thought was a very good player, who didn't get a chance at Everton. And we think that Martinez is stubborn nowadays.
I think that Mike Bernard was brought in to replace Bally. He was okay, but he was also no Alan Ball. Nobody was. I just think that if ToffeeWeb was around back then, when Alan Ball was sold, the site would have gone into meltdown. I think it was pigeons that carried the news back then.
5 Posted 11/03/2015 at 17:29:52
6 Posted 11/03/2015 at 17:26:12
As Victor mentions, news was delivered by pigeons then. Talk about ruining Christmas Â– he was sold to the Arse on 22 December.
It was an ’American Pie’ moment for me, doing me morning paper round ...
"... but (December) made me shiver, with every paper I delivered ... bad news on the doorstep ... I couldn’t take one more step."
That day at school, all the Blues formed a funeral march, heads bowed, walking half paced through the corridors.
Even with the success of the 80s team, the day we sold Bally Â– the club’s greatest ever asset (sorry, Dixie) Â– signalled a sea change at Everton.
We were the Mersey Millionaires. We were the predatory Big Club who others wanted to play for. We have never again competed in the very top echelons for the very best talent and we no longer retain our very best players once others come sniffing.
And the all too rapid break up of the classic title winning side of 1970 coincided with the rise of the red tide across the park.
How? Why? Does Everton have this capacity to hurt you so much?
22 December 1971 and 25 April 2007... dates that even now move me to tears.
Truly, the greatest of them all...
7 Posted 11/03/2015 at 17:42:11
In his prime, he would demand a fee as high as Messi in today's market as he was one of the few players who could not only change the game but lift the whole team, and his standards very rarely dropped, week-in and week-out.
8 Posted 11/03/2015 at 18:00:09
9 Posted 11/03/2015 at 17:54:32
I go back a few years to my hero - or actually heroes Â– Young and Vernon. Both different to Ball but both charismatic like Ball. Young to me was the bees knees. Vernon was brilliant.
IÂm forever glad we had Ball because to those of us fortunate to have seen him and witness the wholeheartness of his play gives us a template to what an Everton player should be. I just wish the fuckwits playing today could be 10% of him.
10 Posted 11/03/2015 at 17:56:13
After that, the rule was changed; the ball must travel the distance of a complete revolution before any other player can strike it.
11 Posted 11/03/2015 at 18:10:19
Ironically, playing for Coventry, he scored his controversial goal against us that induced the rule change, or rather, a reinforcement of an existing rule.
The issue, Bill, wasn’t the complete revolution of the ball. It was the fact that Willie Carr (who set up the flick you mention) stood over the ball with the ball between his ankles. He took the Everton defence by surprise with a ’donkey kick’ movement that launched the ball into the air for Hunt to volley in.
Even now I think it was a very clever, innovative goal. But in truth, it should have been disallowed as Carr’s action represented a ’double touch’ of the ball and of course the free kick taker can only play the ball again after another player has touched it.
In finding this link of the goal on YouTube Link
I’ve just discovered it was the first official ’Goal of the Season’ in the old Football League Division 1.
12 Posted 11/03/2015 at 18:30:25
Happy days indeed.
13 Posted 11/03/2015 at 19:02:17
Incidentally, Ernie Hunt's real Christian name was Roger, called himself Ernie to stop confusion with you know who.
14 Posted 11/03/2015 at 19:19:09
15 Posted 11/03/2015 at 19:24:19
16 Posted 11/03/2015 at 19:18:24
Memory plays tricks, mind you. I’m not sure Bally was wearing the white boots until later on, maybe the following season.
Thank God I was born when I was. Who nowadays could imagine the most coveted player in English football coming to join Everton? It won’t happen again, that’s for sure. But alas it HAS happened the other way round, when Rooney left. And that could happen again.
For fans of my generation, the day we heard Catterick had sold Ball was our JFK assassination moment. You always remember where you were when the news came through.
17 Posted 11/03/2015 at 19:29:51
18 Posted 11/03/2015 at 19:27:02
I remember watching Ball and Tommy Wright play for England against Rumania. Wright was superb but Alan Ball was magnificent.
I don't think he was a top manager because he simply expected the same effort from his players as he gave. It was beyond most. Roberto should spend a few hours with our players showing tapes of Alan, his passion his skill and his commitment, and then tell them "This is what being an Evertonian means, this is what is expected."
Does anyone remember his board game, Alan Ball's Soccerama
19 Posted 11/03/2015 at 19:42:23
20 Posted 11/03/2015 at 19:39:54
I loved him, one of my idols, but only after Davie Hickson and I know he was a better player than Davie, but Davie was Davie, my first football love.
21 Posted 11/03/2015 at 19:41:43
23 Posted 11/03/2015 at 19:35:03
Move the clock forward about 10 years ago; a mate of mine who worked for a bank mentioned he was going to a company dinner with Bally as the guest speaker. My mate related the story of the car to Bally. He didn't remember the incident, obviously but he remembered the car. I received a signed menu with the registration number on it and a short note: "Thanks for minding the car."
Great player, great man. As somebody here has said earlier, for me also he was the only true hero I have ever had. RIP, Alan Ball.
24 Posted 11/03/2015 at 19:34:42
My (late) mother, a mad blue herself, tried everything to console me but nothing worked and I cried and cried and cried.
(No, I wasn't 39.)
It was probably the first one of those big life lessons that says 'There are going to be disappointments.'
Anyway (certainly at my age and with the way players are now), I'm guessing he'll remain my all time, first-choice Everton hero.
I loved Alan Ball.
25 Posted 11/03/2015 at 20:03:37
Obviously as a lifelong Blue, I know he was a legend, a word used far too easily now. (Kevin Kilbane was described as a ’Premier League Legend’ the other night on the TV!) But it would have been great to have have seen Ball play.
Hard to think of legends in my own time. ’Favourites’ might be more appropriate though some from the mid 80s side as well as one or two from the mid/late 70s come close: BL, MD, PR, KR, PB, AG, TS and NS.
26 Posted 11/03/2015 at 20:18:11
27 Posted 11/03/2015 at 20:26:13
I was in the Park End in 1978 when he took a penalty at 0-0 for Southampton. I was in turmoil! surely he wouldn't make me suffer further pain... he missed... and do I miss him.
30 Posted 11/03/2015 at 20:12:35
Okay, so he signed, for Arsenal (for whatever reasons) but the same climate had allowed Catterick to sneak him under the clutches of Revie’s Leeds. Enjoy it while you can; that’s all you can do.
31 Posted 11/03/2015 at 20:41:49
32 Posted 11/03/2015 at 20:38:20
For a great insight into the background of the deal and Catterick's reasons for it, read Rob Sawyer's recent book on the manager and, perhaps, wish his modern day counterpart was as ruthless in his dealings.
33 Posted 11/03/2015 at 20:38:26
I remember annoying reds all around us with my celebrations. The World Cup winner who naturally signed for Everton as a young genius before the summer triumph that gave him football immortality. Great player, great man, great days.
34 Posted 11/03/2015 at 20:46:43
35 Posted 11/03/2015 at 20:35:39
I should mention he was in a team of great footballers.
Mike at 25 Â– when you have a spare 90 minutes check this out from 1967 - Link
This is what keeps me hoping.
Up the Toffees.
36 Posted 11/03/2015 at 20:56:31
"Son, I've got bad news. Alan Ball has been sold to Arsenal".
I remember to this day asking him why? He had no answer and I felt numb.
Sometimes you fucking hate this club...
37 Posted 11/03/2015 at 21:01:31
38 Posted 11/03/2015 at 20:56:27
Andy King came very close to my affection. His goal at Chelsea in the same season was fantastic. I was standing in the shed that day. An experience never to forget... unless I have.
39 Posted 11/03/2015 at 20:50:43
But Alan Ball taught me a lifelong lesson... never ever give up!! And I am forever grateful to him for that. A true legend to so many of us.
40 Posted 11/03/2015 at 21:28:26
Bally had allegedly become a toxic influence in the dressing room, complaining about others' performances, moaning about tactics, "I'm the only one who's trying," etc etc. It had got the the point that other players were starting to imitate him making these complaints, and it was leading to problems in the dressing room.
I haven't a clue if any of this is true but it was allegedly a factor in Catterick deciding to get rid.
41 Posted 11/03/2015 at 21:42:57
(I think we'd won more league titles than Man Utd at that time...)
42 Posted 11/03/2015 at 21:35:38
I am a lot older. Sometimes I hate this fucking Club!
43 Posted 11/03/2015 at 21:45:31
We'll never know the whole story which, perhaps, is just as well. But we all loved him no matter!
44 Posted 11/03/2015 at 21:22:35
I never understood why he bought some players and then never played them. I think there was also a player called Mildew (I could be wrong here). This lad was breaking goalscoring records in the lower divisions (if my memory is right). But he signed for Everton, and I don't think he played one game.
Alan Whittle had one good half season, and was also sold by Catterick. Not comparing these players with Bally. But TBH the Catterick team of the late 1960s picked itself. Catterick didn't tinker that much. Compare those days to the squad rotating nonsense that Martinez does almost every game. Players needing a rest after playing two games. Never happened in Alan Ball's day. Well not much anyway.
Off topic here, but it's nice to remember those days. Some people think that football began with Sky and the Premier League. Also I never really thought about it, but as mentioned, Everton were never the same team after they sold Ball. He could have made a difference had he been in the same team as Martin Dobson and Bob Latchford. I liked that squad. And Ball was still playing well. But it was not to be.
As you all know, that free-kick by Hunt was banned shortly afterwards. I believe it was called the Donkey Kick. Ernie Hunt entered my mind because Alan Ball himself once said that he really rated Hunt. But, despite buying him, Catterick did not.
We could do with an Alan Ball nowadays. That would be a clash, one hell of a clash of philosophies. Alan Ball versus Martinez. I know who would get my support.
45 Posted 11/03/2015 at 22:07:19
The cameras were at Highbury when he signed. A smirking Frank McClintock said, "He's come here to win some trophies." I've never liked him.
46 Posted 11/03/2015 at 22:09:40
His league career finished back at Rochdale where I think he became a bit of a legend.
47 Posted 11/03/2015 at 22:02:47
The break up of the 1969-1970 team hit me. As it was the first team that I saw play. Catterick never really replaced the players that retired or were sold. West, Labone, Royle, Ball , Wright, Husband..etc etc. Although I know that Catterick had a heart attack around that time. The team was neglected for a few years. I was just a youngster back then, so my views were made through young eyes.
As for A.Ball causing unrest. Who really knows. I have read about that. But it was still a shock when he was sold. Just one of those things that sticks in your mind. Just shows what he meant to Everton Football club. A true legend of the game.
48 Posted 11/03/2015 at 22:21:14
49 Posted 11/03/2015 at 22:30:48
50 Posted 11/03/2015 at 22:26:30
Ernie Hunt was never a centre forward yet that is where Catterick played him. After his first game, he was quoted as saying, "It was so strange playing that far up front."
He did score a spectacular goal for us on one occasion though. He had his back to the Park End goal, he leaned forward, caught the ball on the back of his neck, and flipped it behind him into the net.
When Hunt joined us there was a headline in one paper, "Everton sign Hunt." One or two RS fans had cardiac arrests since they thought we had bought their Roger.
51 Posted 11/03/2015 at 22:33:59
Husband was a terrific player until Dave Mckay tackled him and nearly cut him in half. I don't think he recovered from the injury he received that day. All the talk last week after Mckay died made me sick. "Great player, hard but fair" etc. Dirty bastard more like.
As for Ball, truly wonderful player, second only to Alex Young in my book. Victor, I seem to recall that Ball was responsible for some unrest and also thought he'd lost the captain's armband? I think he was put out that not everyone worked as hard as he did, and told them so!
As well as sitting on the ball, does anyone else remember him wiping his brow with the corner flag? And the "Rabona" kick that you see people like Erik Lamema at Spurs doing, to much fanfare; Ball was doing it in 1966.
52 Posted 11/03/2015 at 22:42:51
I am taking nothing away from Alan Ball, he for sure was a legend, but he came into a team of absolute superstars. Jesus, IÂd give anything to see half that team today!!
It only goes to show how much we have deteriorated, especially under this clown.
53 Posted 11/03/2015 at 22:46:39
And I also liked Jimmy Husband. I saw him scythed down by a few hard players back then. The usual suspects. There was a big brute of a centre back that played for Southampton who flattened Husband once. Alan Ball chased him, and squared up to him. Imagine Jagielka doing that.
I also liked Brian Labone... and John Hurst. In fact that was my team. That's when I started to play football for real. That team is hard to get out of your system. I even remember the old Combination League.
Probably the only player I didn't really like was Sandy Brown. Just my opinion at the time. On the topic of fringe players, Gerry Humphries scored numerous goals in the old Combination League. But yet another player to not get much game time from Catterick.
Sorry for reminiscing, people. But that is the team that got me into football. The School of Science. Short-lived for a short period last season. Funny how football comes in cycles.
54 Posted 11/03/2015 at 23:08:48
55 Posted 11/03/2015 at 23:11:32
You mention Jimmy Husband Â– a brilliant winger. That guy got more stick from the crowd than Barkley could ever dream of! Because he wasnÂt a Johnny Morrissey and didnÂt kick shit out of the full back when the ball was on the OTHER side of the field, we all thought he was a wimp!
Whereas Husband just got up after his legs being taken off his body, Morrissey would square up or more usual kick the arsehole when the ball was on the other side. Because Husband "played the game", he got real shite!
Do not talk to me about todayÂs footballers getting stick!
56 Posted 11/03/2015 at 23:18:40
57 Posted 11/03/2015 at 23:20:46
No revisionism from me Colin about Bally but I well remember the 70 -71 season and we were terrible. The Championship-winning side collapsed like a pack of cards and I never thought Alan recovered his best form after Mexico. He was mid 20s when he went to Arsenal and although he did well for them he never got back to the heights.
Doesn't mean he wasn't wonderful for us of course. He certainly was.
58 Posted 11/03/2015 at 23:23:58
My lasting memory of him was coming out of GP a bit early with my brother; we were at the Park End car park and we seen this young guy kicking an empty pop can like a football. As he came towards us we were thrilled to see it was Bally he shouted 'Hello lads'.
He wasn't fit for the game but that summed him up; his enthusiasm for the game was immense.
59 Posted 11/03/2015 at 23:33:09
The only time a player leaving really bothered me was when 'Big Dunc' was sold Â– also against his will Â– to Newcastle. I knew that Alan Ball was famously sold against his will but what was Catterick's reasoning for his sale, when he was arguably our best player, and we didn't have the money issues like when Dunc was sold?
60 Posted 12/03/2015 at 00:28:55
It is the facts that surely confirm this irrespective of personal opinion? But of course it should not deny the accolades given to players such as Ball, Young, Vernon, Labone, Harvey, Kendall, Southall etc!
61 Posted 12/03/2015 at 00:23:28
Whisper it quietly, but he was also starting to get a bit of stick from sections of the crowd. While his sale was a massive surprise, it didn't affect me as much as it would have done if it had happened earlier.
At Arsenal, his game changed and he became less of a Roy of the Rovers and more a Mikel Arteta, just linking up play with easy passes. He was often pushed to wide right as well. He described his new playing style in terms of him being like a new car that had now been run in, the intimation being that his new playing style was smoother and better tuned.
He undoubtedly was burnt out by the heat and altitude of Mexico although that didn't become evident immediately. His role in that World Cup was to still to chase everything that moved. Ridiculous. It ultimately cost him another few years on his Everton career.
62 Posted 12/03/2015 at 01:09:34
He was a Liverpool killer even in his Blackpool games, a runner and goalscorer in his early days; he adapted his game and played to close to 40 years old.
Great one-touch passer, tremendous skill on the ball, a will to win and nastiness that drove us on to the Championship. Shankly was happy to see the back of him when we sold him to Arsenal.Poor Henry Newton, a decent player in his own right, just looked awful after we signed him with Bally fresh in everyone's minds.
A lot of great moments; one I remember... struggling at home in a European tie to Kevflavic of Iceland... Bally received a short corner, beat a bunch of guys and hammered it home. A real leader and one we were lucky to have. I loved Alex Young, Big Bob Latch and the rest but Bally was class and had everything and proved it at the very highest levels.
63 Posted 12/03/2015 at 01:21:46
It wasn't until I was older that I realized his squeaky voice wasn't caused by a butterfly flying into his mouth when he stuck his head out of a train window. I believed anything me dad said.
64 Posted 12/03/2015 at 01:46:30
Just a last comment from me. I really liked Alan Ball. But if push game to shove, my favourite Everton players are Mick Lyons, Martin Dobson and Bob Latchford. I loved the 1970 team. But I understood the game better in the late 70s. To me it will always rankle that that team around 1976 to 1979 did not win a trophy. I always thought that they should have. Just my opinion.
Shows how poor this current team is, when I am more interested in reminiscing about the 60s and 70s.
65 Posted 12/03/2015 at 09:33:27
By the time Ball was sold, I was getting used to Catterick's idiocy regarding sales. Bobby Collins was the worst, Roy Vernon and Jimmy Gabriel were premature and Ball too was premature. All these players were individuals and Catterick wasn't fond of people who spoke up.
66 Posted 12/03/2015 at 14:56:49
I managed to catch him waiting for a ’lady’ (not Mrs Ball) in a layby outside Aintree Station one summer day in 1969. I tore home on my bike... got a Everton team picture and pen... and tore back up the road again. He’d gone but suddenly he roared past me (in the open top Jag..with ’lady’ now) and pulled up at the lights. I came alongside him on my bike and scared the life out of him, producing my pic... "Can I have your autograph please?"... I don’t know which of us was shocked more. I still have that signed photo to this day.
Yes he got slagged off too. I recall the crowd definitely turning on him in the years after the 1970 title win. Sitting in my gran’s house in 1972, hearing of another depressing away defeat result come in on Grandstand... a unison of voices from uncle and grand dad combined ’’There’s ya Alan Ball for ya!!’. Him being captain was never a great one for many fans... some say it shackled him with a responsibility that he didn’t/wasn’t up to taking on. Who knows.
Dad brought me the grim news early that morning in December as I lay in bed in Netherton. He came straight in from getting his Daily Post and came into my room showing me the back page: "Bally’s Gone." I looked at the posters in my room on the wall... more of Ball than anyone else (though a small picture of Bob Dylan had somehow crept in that last few months who would become a later hero).
A few days later, at the Huddersfield home game, the tension grew as it got to 2:55 as Â– hard to imagine it nowadays Â– no-one knew who was going to be the new captain until the team came out... "It’s Kendall," the crowd said in unison.
For younger Blues, his final goal a few weeks previously against Newcastle is on YouTube... go see that to savour a brief glimpse of what we older Blues are on about.
Thank you Bally. Oh to have had you against the Redshite (and in particular Gerrard) over the years.
67 Posted 12/03/2015 at 16:45:15
I still remember the day my dad shouted up the stairs to tell me we had sold him to Arsenal... Down came my pictures of him in the white boots. I was devastated no-one else had sat on a ball in the corner flag area or scored the winner against the flying pig (Tommy Lawrence) from an impossible angle. A life cut short far too early.
68 Posted 12/03/2015 at 16:42:48
69 Posted 12/03/2015 at 19:05:30
Marvellous player with such a will to win but was off form for a good year or so before he was sold Â– still heartbreaking that he left and I willed him to return to manage us but he didn't quite make that.
Steve Melledew incidentally scored 5 goals for us in a reserve game and was lined up to make his debut at White Hart Lane but the game was postponed due to snow. Next week he sustained a really bad injury and was never the same and moved on. I used to watch the reserves back then too Â– Whittle, Lyons, Peter Scott Â– and Steve was a bustling type of striker who was quite quick and sharp but just didn't have that lucky break.
As for Whittle, what a player he could have been Â– had everything but consistency and application.
70 Posted 13/03/2015 at 08:08:46
I always remember Bally driving a yellow Ford Anglia when I hung around Bellefield for autographs.
71 Posted 13/03/2015 at 20:26:27
Next day the van comes round. Same driver. I get in. He grins at me and shouts "Alan Ball!"
72 Posted 14/03/2015 at 20:23:51
Incidentally my dad when mentioning Jimmy Husband always states that Mackay tackle ruined him ,
anyway Bally was my first blue hero then the great man Bob Latchford took over.....i haven't had had a hero since .
73 Posted 30/03/2015 at 11:23:46
I saw Bally many times gracing the pitch, loved his warm-ups when he would catch the ball on the back of his neck and well remember the goal in the 5th Round vs the RS, unbelievable angle and I still think of it every time he is mentioned.
I patted him on his back at Cheltenham races in the 80s; loved his horses did Bally. I told him like so many other devotees that he was my hero Â– I haven't really had one since then.
Some years later, I delivered a car to Steve Claridge when he was at Portsmouth and said to him "Alan Ball was your manager, my hero" and he said "He is a cunt." So that ended any rappor pretty swiftly.
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