Alan Ball

by   |   13/05/2022  47 Comments  [Jump to last]

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I grew up learning about him and we used to watch Southampton purely because of him. Apparently the best Everton player until Kevin Sheedy?

Happy heavenly birthday Alan Ball. I think you just edged my Dad's admiration for Alex Young.

There is something about the Amber kit isn't there? It should be standard.

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Dave Williams
1 Posted 13/05/2022 at 16:43:50
Sheedy was very good but was a very different player and it is no insult to say he was not in the same class. If Ball was in the team, I knew we had a good chance of winning, regardless of the opposition. At Southampton, he was a one-touch player of the highest order but nowhere near the player he had been with us.

From 1966 to 1970 he must have been in the top 3 attacking midfielders in Europe and was easily the second-best player in England behind George Best albeit Alan's influence on his teammates made him the more consistently effective player.

The likes of Gaza, Gerrard and even our Frank wouldn't have got anywhere near Bally at his peak, he really was that good!

Barry Rathbone
2 Posted 13/05/2022 at 17:06:02
Alan Ball invented the "midfield dynamo" role with his box to box energy and match-changing endeavours. Unfortunately English clubs tried to emulate his World Cup winning impact with a variety of lesser players most of whom had good engines but nowhere near his ability.

Alan Ball had superb technique, vision, artistry and complete mastery of the football – the failure to reproduce his sort was arguably the start of a decline in English football which has never been reversed.

He was mercurial at this club and for those fortunate enough to see him his move to Arsenal. The club's descent thereafter has become a sort of "you knew where you were when you heard of his transfer" moment.

I think I still haven't recovered.

Danny O’Neill
3 Posted 13/05/2022 at 17:08:36
My dad idolised him Dave and I wish I'd seen him in his prime. Sheedy was equally special for me.

My middle brother is named after him.

My youngest brother's middle name is Howard.

Me? I'm named after my Grandmother's favourite Irish song, Danny Boy.

Where did I go wrong? What did I do wrong?

Brent Stephens
4 Posted 13/05/2022 at 17:43:53
Who's the greatest of them all...?

Who's the player with the most...?

Dave Williams
5 Posted 13/05/2022 at 18:15:39
Don’t worry Danny- you could have been named after Danny Williamson!
Dave Abrahams
6 Posted 13/05/2022 at 19:53:41
Danny (3)You never did anything wrong, stop bleedin’ moaning you were named after a great song and I bet you were the apple of your grandmothers eye!.,
Dave Lynch
7 Posted 13/05/2022 at 20:02:47
If we're on naming.
Mine is David Paul Lynch. My dad saw z horse running with the name David Paul, had a few quid on it and it won.

He was taken with the name and suggested it to my mother who liked the sound of it.

He only came clean when I was about 5 yrs old.

John McFarlane Snr
8 Posted 13/05/2022 at 20:26:25
HI Dave [6], Barry Rathbone [2] claims that Alan Ball invented the 'Midfield Dynamo' I would challenge that and put forward the name of Bobby Collins, who we knew as an inside forward, a fore-runner to the midfielder. I'm sure that there are others before Ball who gave their all for the benefit of their team-mates, a name that springs to mind is Peter Farrell. I'm also sure that there were players from other clubs who were equally 'Dynamic'.
I'm not questioning Ball's efforts, I just think that there were many players who gave their all to the clubs they played for. I believe that's been the nature of the game from the beginning of football until the present day, the "Workhorse/"Dynamo and Predator/Goal-scorer. Feel free to differ, that's what 'ToffeeWeb' is all about, life would be boring if we all had the same opinion.
Dave Abrahams
9 Posted 13/05/2022 at 20:37:23
John (8), yes John when I was reading Barry’s post a vision of Bobby Collins was entering into my minds eye, I loved Alan Ball, how couldn’t you, but Bobby dragged a very poor Everton team from the dregs of division one to become one of the best teams in the land and only a very unpopular transfer to Leeds Unt. stopped him from earning some well deserved medals with the Blues, one of the very best players I saw playing for Everton.
John McFarlane Snr
10 Posted 13/05/2022 at 20:54:13
Hi again Dave [9] I thought you may agree with me, we have been around long enough to have seen many skilful/industrious players, and as I have written, it's my belief that they have existed since the beginning of football. We could do with a 'Peter Farrell' and 'Alan Ball' right now, both inspirational players, I know that time can be deceptive but I consider Peter Farrell to be the best captain in my years of watching Everton.
Tony Hill
11 Posted 13/05/2022 at 21:11:12
Ball, at his peak, was the best first time passer I have ever seen, certainly for us and, apart from Xavi, I can't think of any who could possibly challenge him in the wider game. I have soft spots for Tommy Ring, Roy Vernon and, of course, Young.

My own top ever trio for Everton (in terms of pure talent) would be Ball at 3, Colin Harvey at 2 and Rooney at 1.

Of course, Ball and Harvey (and lots of others) are many miles ahead of Rooney in terms of True Blue Value.

Chris Hockenhull
12 Posted 13/05/2022 at 21:38:02
For old timers don’t forget Bobby Charlton in the new midfielder memories
Tony Hill
13 Posted 13/05/2022 at 21:46:22
Having mentioned Xavi, I recommend something online called "Xavi: Master The Pass" on FourFourTwo. I'm too old and stupid to link.

The beauty of simplicity. The best footballers are types of mathematician.

Frank should read it out to our brave fumblers, every single day.

Stan Schofield
14 Posted 13/05/2022 at 21:49:26
For me, Alan Ball was Everton. He was my greatest footballing hero. The four years from 1966 to 1970 were simply great and awsome, and Alan Ball was the fulcrum of that.

Everton were the coolest and most stylish team in British football. The midfield of Ball, Harvey and Kendall was the best around and the epitome of the ‘beautiful game’ at its best. The only other midfield that came anywhere near was the great Brazil midfield of Gerson, Rivelino and Clodoaldo. We were the then equivalent of today’s Man City, a level above any others in terms of pure football. And it wouldn’t have been possible without Alan Ball.

Tony Hill
15 Posted 13/05/2022 at 22:07:00
Plus, of course, Tony Kay. One on his own.
Ian Pilkington
16 Posted 13/05/2022 at 22:15:57
The anguish I felt when Bally was stupidly sold to Arsenal was only matched when Rooney was given away to Manure.

Kendall, Harvey and Ball- the best midfield trio I have ever seen.

Tony Abrahams
17 Posted 13/05/2022 at 22:43:23
I reckon Xavi learned everything from his partner Iniesta, Tony, but I'm also aware it's all about opinions, mate!
Derek Thomas
18 Posted 13/05/2022 at 23:38:13
Dave @ 1 & Stan @ 14; nailed it; game, set and match.

Just as the 62-63 in team in their April form would've seen off Inter Milan.
The 69-70 team (K. Newton in for Brown just to keep the pedants happy) would've given the 1970 Brazil team a better game than the actual England team did...and both were close run things even in the real world.

The real inadvertant 'Villain' of the piece was Catterick...and by extension The Board.

He was barely tolerant of anybody who didn't toe his line and had any opinion of their own...especially if they were staring the big 3 Oh in the face - but only for as long as they were at the very top of their game.

Drop off; and it was any excuse - you were gone, asap...and if he could make or recoup money on the deal - all the better.

Sometimes he was possibly right - Vernon, Young?
Sometimes he was vindictively wrong, Jimmy Gabriel springs to mind.

Sometimes he was Spectacularly Wrong - Collins and Ball.

Yes Ball wasn't the 22, 23 yr old goal machine box to box dynamo he used to be. But post war prosperity and better nutrition was starting to throw up more and more players who weren't done in by 30...they were always there.
Players who could use their heads to save their legs Matthews, Bryan Douglas, even, *spits, Johnny Giles.
But football was changing too, we saw the beginnings of what we have now, the middle distance runner as a footballer.

Dashing wingers of the 50s and 60s dropping back, coming inside, Charlton, *grudgingly Callaghan.

In hindsight (skirts over any gambling issues)
all this was not in Harry's world view - hence the sale.

Young was my hearts pick - Ball my heads pick.

His 3rd(?) game in Aug 1966, Vs the rs, were, seemingly on his own, he ripped them a new one - magnifique!

Shankley would've snapped him up in an Instant he 'hated him' = so he must've been very, very, good - and He was.

For good reason we sang - "who's the greatest of them all?"

We've never seen the like since - nor I think will we again.

Peter Mills
19 Posted 13/05/2022 at 00:14:25
Danny, it's very difficult to write objectively about Alan Ball, because he generated so much emotion. Try to imagine the difference between monochrome and Technicolor.

We won the FA Cup on 14 May 1966. It was huge. For this 10-year-old boy who was there, it provided a memory that will never die. We got home and there were no images of it on the telly. My Dad took us to the pictures in town a few days later so we could see the goals again, in colour.

Then came the World Cup. It was wonderful, black and white magic nearly every night, although a few people on here got to see at Goodison Park – the gold and green of Brazil, the claret, white and green of Hungary, North Korea stunning the world by going 3-0 up against Portugal. We all watched as England struggled to win the final, but inspired by a little guy playing on the right wing, playing everywhere, eventually picked up the Jules Rimet trophy.

The new season started very quickly after that. We were well beaten in the Charity Shield at Goodison by Liverpool. A couple of days later, a newsflash told us we had signed Alan Ball for £110,000, a fortune.

A couple more days later, on a sunny day in blue and white he scored the only goal at Craven Cottage. A fortnight later he scored 2 in the first 20 minutes at Goodison against Liverpool in a 3-1 win. It was instant love.

For me, he was the transition from one era of football to another. Bally was wonderful, a magnificent passer of the ball, a goal scorer, a showman who was very happy to use his arse either to trap the ball or to sit on it. There was something about his appearance, red hair, blue shirt, white shorts, white socks, white boots, that just suited Goodison, graced it.

He wasn't perfect. But for four years, he was as close to it as you are going to see on a football pitch.

Don Alexander
20 Posted 14/05/2022 at 00:25:12
In 1970 or so England beat a good Belgian side. MotM in the '66 World Cup final Bally was the first name on the team-sheet thereafter. Anyway, the Belgian manager in a post-match presser simply said, "We had no chance. We were up against two teams, England and Alan Ball."

He was that good, and narky as hell.

His transfer denigrated the club for a decade and it's the reason I cannot remember the Catt with any affection.

Ron Marr
21 Posted 14/05/2022 at 02:01:41
Alan Ball was the greatest player to have kicked a football. Viewed thru my blue tinted glasses.

I'm with you Stan (14), I think we're about the same age. Colin Harvey incredible skill (the 'White Pele') only player I saw who could match George Best for ball-control skills. Howard Kendall was awesome too. I think he was the youngest player to play in an FA Cup Final (Preston vs West Ham) age 17.

Danny O’Neill
22 Posted 14/05/2022 at 06:09:53
Some great accounts here that just add to my envy at not having watched him at his best.

If only there had been the television footage we have now to capture the magic that many of you witnessed. How much more would they have been revelled considering how seemingly just above average players are now hyped about?

The heart said Young, the head said Ball. That was my Dad's view as well. In that era he also had a soft spot for Brian Labone and Jimmy "the Angel" Gabriel. And Colin Harvey who has to be the biggest Evertonian I am aware of. I know I've said it many times, but he actually brings me to tears on that scene outside the Gwladys Street every time I watch Howard's Way.

I never saw them, but what a team. What a generation.

Interesting mention of Ball being narky. The good players, especially midfielders need that. They have standards, which leads to expectation of those around them.

Danny O’Neill
23 Posted 14/05/2022 at 06:31:02
Your 1966 tale is great Peter.

This 12 year old had a similar experience in 1984. I'm repeating myself, but I attended the Milk (League) Cup final and was mesmerised to the point my Dad kept shouting at me to watch the football, not the crowd.

We were back several weeks later to see us lift our first trophy in 14 years. I can still see my Dad trying to get on the pitch at the end. I was behind wondering how I was going to get home if he was successful.

Dave Abrahams
24 Posted 14/05/2022 at 09:03:51
Peter (19), That picture house your dad took you to see the 1966 FA cup win was The News Theatre, I’d been to Wembley like yourself but went into the pictures to see it myself, when Temple scored the winner, in the pictures, a fella jumped up cheering like a lunatic and was escorted out by the usherettes, as he passed me getting dragged up the aisle I recognised him, a mad Blue, who worked in the ship marine repair game, I gave him a wave, don’t think he saw me, he was bevvied not just with the ale drunk on Everton as well, what a weekend that was.
Paul Birmingham
25 Posted 14/05/2022 at 09:30:08
It's a privilege to have watched and met Alan Ball, truly pivotal to the Everton cause at the period. Like Dave A has said about the “Weebarra” in the early 1960s and Bally was in the late 1960s.

Alex Young was a football maestro but Bally was as close to finest poetry in motion in terms of playing football. There's been very few British players who could come close to him, in even the modern game.

For myself, in the modern Premier League, the best player in my view and consistently is Kevin de Bryune at Man City but, for tenacity, Bally would edge him out.

He's an Everton Legend, and rightly so. Legend in the modern game does seem to get used out of context, but Bobby Collins, Alan Ball, Colin Harvey, Howard Kendall, Brian Labone, Bob Latchford, Kevin Sheedy, Trevor Steven, Neville Southall – for me, all are genuine Everton Legends.

Now for Brentford.
UTFT!

Paul Birmingham
26 Posted 14/05/2022 at 09:31:13
How could I forget also Dave Watson and Mick Lyons?
Tony Abrahams
27 Posted 14/05/2022 at 10:13:11
After reading this it’s obvious Everton, and more importantly Evertonians, need some new hero’s, players who make it worthwhile going to the game for. During the Chelsea game, my youngest son, asked me could he get a new Everton shirt with Anthony Gordon on it, just a few weeks after my oldest son, wanted every single player out of our club, after the disappointment of tepidly going out of the FA Cup without a murmur.

My own Alan Ball, was Peter Reid, and this current Everton team, need similar personalities, players who absolutely detest losing, and spread their infectious nature right throughout their team.

Some lovely stories, and Peter’s passionate description of Alan Ball was brilliant, and made me realize why I fell in love with the beautiful game, and Everton.

Trevor Powell
28 Posted 14/05/2022 at 10:39:37
Danny, I was named Trevor after Trevor Howard, the actor in Brief Encounter! To my Mum, he was the equivalent of Brad Pitt etc over the years. I was a teacher for over 35 years and I never ever taught a Trevor! It's the sort of name that medicore playwrights and sitcom writers give to the boring fart next door! The only Trevor to stand out for me was Trevor Steven of course. Now he could float and sting like a bee!
Paul Birmingham
29 Posted 14/05/2022 at 16:17:07
Tony, spot on mate, we dearly need some new Everton hero’s.

Hopefully this era can herald the building of new Everton hero’s.

Let’s hope so.

UTFT!

Peter Mills
30 Posted 14/05/2022 at 16:34:01
Dave#64, there were a few of the men of the parish on our coach bevvied on Everton too. We got home at 6.30 on the Sunday morning, and my Dad got slaughtered by my Mum for keeping her 10 and 13 year old sons out all night. Even worse, because we slept all morning, we missed Mass.

It’s the stuff of family legend that my Dad placated her by promising that because we missed Mass, he would take us to the procession that afternoon instead. But he failed to mention that the procession was not the traditional Catholic one in honour of Our Lady, but the one involving the FA Cup being brought down Queens Drive!

Alan J Thompson
31 Posted 14/05/2022 at 17:01:14
Alan Ball also had a lot of the showman in him. As Peter(#19) pointed out, although I might have said controlled it with his backside as a totally different picture can be conjured up by those who didn't see it with, "trapped it with his arse". There was also a throw in procedure which I think was ruled unfair where Bally and another would seem to contest who would take the throw in and the other would move away and the throw would hit him in the back for return to the thrower. Mind you, there were also times when he was criticized for losing his temper which occasionally led to him being sent off.

How we could do with him now, and anytime.

Dave Abrahams
32 Posted 14/05/2022 at 20:01:28
Peter (30),

Quite a few who came on our coach never went back on it, they headed into London while we had a decent driver who took us unto one of the new towns, might have been Milton Keynes where we stayed until it closed.

A woman who lived there kicked off on us, a real witch and nutcase of a woman, until her husband, a Londoner, calmed her down. Where was she from? Liverpool!!

You couldn't make it up, she must have been a Rednose fan.

Good on your dad getting out of that bit of bother with your mum!!

Stan Schofield
33 Posted 16/05/2022 at 21:10:56
I just want to add something to my post @14, regarding the day Everton sold Alan Ball.

I lived in Robson Sreet, walking distance from Goodison Park. I was 17, and my dad asked me to get the Daily Mirror from our newsagent. I walked in, picked up the Mirror, paid for it, then looked at the sports page at the back.

I couldn't believe what I was reading, that Everton had sold Alan Ball to Arsenal. I recall the sum: £220k, and knew it to be double what Everton had paid for him 5 years before. But I couldn't fathom why it was happening at all.

I'm not prone to being dramatic, but at that moment I remember simply wanting the clock to be turned back to 1966, to the World Cup Final, where Alan Ball had been MotM, and to our signing him not long after. I felt that a football rug had been pulled from under my feet, that Everton had done something utterly unfathomable.

At that moment, the shine was taken off my football world. It was no longer the same Everton. I felt miserable, and that feeling didn't disappear. For me, Everton would never be the same again.

Now, this sounds ridiculous and dramatic, but that's how it was. Alan Ball was my hero, he was a footballing god. Everton sold him, and I never really forgave them for it. People say the club is bigger than any player, but that's not how I saw it.

I don't think I've ever forgiven Everton for that action and, in a sense, I've disliked the club since then. Every time they've let me down after building me up (and they've done that a lot since then), I've been reminded of my dislike.

It's like a paradox: I'm an Evertonian but I dislike the club. I love Evertonians, and I love Everton winning, but I dislike Everton.

There you have it; for me, this is all a measure of how great Alan Ball was – of how, to me, he was Everton, and of how Everton was never the same after he was sold in that unfathomable way.

Derek Thomas
34 Posted 17/05/2022 at 11:05:33
Dave @ 32;

There was also a time (vs Sheffield Utd?) that Ball, Young and Harvey pretended to argue over a free-kick.

Jon Harding
35 Posted 17/05/2022 at 15:02:42
I was born the year we sold Alan Ball so do not have any direct memories to share. However, I will re-tell a story concerning the great man that I heard in an after-dinner speech by Matt Le Tissier who had Ball amongst his managers at Southampton.

Le Tiss got the audience all on side straight away by mocking himself and all the weight he had put on since he retired: “I've taken up a new sport – ballooning. And you can see I've ballooned to over 16 stone”.

His most memorable anecdote concerned Bally. Le Tiss and a few team-mates had broken curfew on an away trip and had a few late night beers.

On sneaking back into the hotel, they found Ball sat waiting for them. He tore a strip off the lot of them, threatening non-selection and fines. He sent them all off to bed except Le Tissier, who the others assumed would receive an extra bollocking as club captain at the time.

Ball's final quiet words to just his captain were: “Don't worry about all that, son. You're playing magic at the moment. Just keep it up.” The best bit of man-management Le Tissier said he ever received in his entire club and international career.

John McFarlane Snr
36 Posted 17/05/2022 at 15:47:13
HI Jon [35], a great story that you've related, that was when footballers were closer to their fans, no gated mansions etc.

There were many rumours circulating around the Alan Ball transfer, the strongest referred to his alleged gambling.

In a radio interview some time later, Harry Catterick said "The truth will come out some day". Unfortunately with the principal characters no longer with us, it never did come out and it's unlikely that it ever will.

I was 34 earlier in that year so you've got a little catching up to do, I hope you witness as much success as I have, along with the inevitable disappointments that are the lot of the football fan.

John McFarlane Snr
37 Posted 17/05/2022 at 16:53:42
HI again Jon [35] correction, I was only 33, so you don't have as much catching up to do, but my hopes for you are still valid.
Jim Wilson
38 Posted 17/05/2022 at 17:18:28
Alan Ball and Colin Harvey are my all-time two favourite players.

I had my white boots and always had my Everton shirt half hanging out, half tucked in as that looked like the way Colin Harvey always wore it, to me anyway.

Neither player should have been sold when they were, but Everton never recovered from the sale of Ball. One of the worst decisions in football.

Martin Mason
39 Posted 17/05/2022 at 17:27:54
Colin Harvey, the White Pele, was grossly underrated, but so was Alan Ball when he was rated as just 'world class'.

His one-touch passing game was devastating and yet he was a superb wide player too (1966 World Cup?). His long passing was magnificent and 16 goals a season from midfield.

A privilege to have seen him 1966 to 1970. I watched the game down at Wolves in the 1970 Championship season. He got 10/10 in all the Sunday papers that gave marks.

Brian Murray
40 Posted 17/05/2022 at 17:41:07
Slightly bigger picture in my eyes was bally welling up close to tears during a game either screaming at his team mates or the ref at a bad call. As for his one touch ability oh my even at saints when late in his career he still had it. Selfish of me but I'm glad his arsenal days where just after they was a force in 71 so we had the best of him. Best in a blue shirt in my lifetime by a quite a way.
Matthew Williams
41 Posted 17/05/2022 at 17:45:17
I never saw Alan Ball play for us but am well aware of the "Holy Trinity",he along with Harvey and Kendall are justified hero's of our club,the footy they played was a driving force in the mid to late 60s,which brought such joy to the faithful.

There's a superb pic of our great no 8 in the Raven pub in Waterloo (a Blue pub) in the Royal Blue,white shorts and pale amber socks...which should be our regular home kit imho!

Andy Riley
42 Posted 17/05/2022 at 17:47:52
Not sure if anyone else remembers it but there was a glossy magazine devoted to Alan Ball produced by Everton in about 1968/69. I recall that in that Harry Catterick was asked if he'd sell him if offered one million pounds?

Catterick replied that he'd obviously consider it as every player had his price but after due consideration he'd reject it as Alan Ball was that good.

Thinking about that now maybe brings a similarity to Kenwright saying he'd refuse any less that £50 million for Rooney then accepting less than £30 million in many conditional instalments?

Brian Murray
43 Posted 17/05/2022 at 18:01:42
Andy. Why did you have to spoil this beautiful thread by mentioning that curse's name with this club? The winning mentality Bally had is totally alien to that man. I'll say no more.
Andy Riley
44 Posted 17/05/2022 at 18:35:57
Sorry, Brian – my best memory of Alan Ball being on a stool at the age of 13 at the front of the old Park End when we won the 69-70 title against West Brom.

Bally came to take a corner and I threw him a Wrigley's Spearmint chewy which he picked up opened and put in his mouth before taking the corner.

Great memories!

Jerome Shields
45 Posted 19/05/2022 at 10:00:19
1970 was the year.Everton winning the League is a matter of fact fashion and then the World Cup in Mexico.Ball was outstanding in the years up to that and totally dominated the Everton team after that in midfield.In his white boot era he was even too of a good player, since Everton became totally dependent on him.
Jerome Shields
46 Posted 19/05/2022 at 10:13:22
According to Ball 'the white boots where crap, lads.'
Mark Ryan
47 Posted 19/05/2022 at 14:36:15
Saw Bally when I was a young lad and my Dad pointed him out to me. Those days, I was so small walking amongst the men in and around Gwladys Street and on Goodison Rd. Used to love the smell of the food van….

Anyway, many many years later, as a grown man myself, I was in a pub down near Maidenhead in Berkshire, in the back of beyond, on a rural country road, and stood at the bar was none other than man himself! He actually owned the place.

I actually choked when I saw him and although I could muster a smile and a nod I was so overwhelmed I couldn't speak. It was my big chance to say hello but I fluffed my lines. He was my hero as a boy but just being in the same room was enough for me. A class act.


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