Andy Ford continues his 1966 themed series, with Alan Ball being the next subject.
Alan Ball’s first match against Gillingham was for top-flight Blackpool in a League Cup Second Round tie at Bloomfield Road on Wednesday 22 September 1965. The hosts defeated the Gills, who were playing in the third tier of English football, by a 5-2 scoreline, with our goals coming from Brian Gibbs and Gordon Pulley. Ball, having had an earlier effort disallowed, scored Blackpool’s fourth goal, with a penalty.
The midfielder had turned professional with Blackpool in May 1962 and became the club’s youngest debutant when he played in a 2-1 win at Liverpool later that year, at the age of 17 years and 98 days. England manager Alf Ramsey gave him his international début in a 1-1 draw with Yugoslavia in Belgrade in May 1965, after he’d made four appearances for the under 23 side.
Alan was the youngest member of the 22-strong squad selected for the 1966 World Cup Finals. He played in four of the six matches, including the Final, only missing out on the group games against Mexico and France. Following the World Cup success, Alan returned to a civic reception in Walkden, Lancashire, where he lived with his parents and sister.
He won 72 international caps, including six as captain, scoring eight goals, and became the second England player to be sent off in a full international, when he was dismissed in the away June 1974 2-0 World Cup Qualifier defeat in Poland, after grabbing Lesław Ćmikiewicz by the throat and kneeing him in the groin during a scuffle. As a result, he couldn’t play in the return game at Wembley Stadium, which ended in a 1-1 draw, with England missing out on the World Cup Finals after failing to win. He won his last cap in May 1975, in a 5-1 victory over Scotland at Wembley.
In his club career, Ball twice moved clubs for British transfer record fees, joining Everton from Blackpool for £112,000 in August 1966, and moving to Arsenal from the Merseysiders for 220,000 in December 1971. He signed for Southampton in 1976 and, during his time with the south coast club, spent close-seasons in America on a couple of occasions, assisting / managing Philadelphia Fury in 1978 and playing for Vancouver Whitecaps in the following year.
He rejoined Blackpool, as player-manager, in February 1980, and made his second appearance against Gillingham in our 4-0 defeat at Bloomfield Road in October that year. Ball returned to Southampton in March 1981 and then played in Australia and Hong Kong, before ending a playing career that had seen him make more than 800 appearances in all competitions, at Bristol Rovers, for whom he faced the Gills for the third and final time, in our 1-0 victory at Priestfield in May 1983.
Alan went on to manage Portsmouth (two spells), Stoke, Exeter, Southampton and Manchester City and died, at the age of 61, on 25 April 2007, after suffering a heart attack while trying to put out a blaze that had started when a bonfire, on which he had been burning garden waste, re-ignited and spread to a nearby fence. He became the second of the 1966 World Cup winning team to pass away, the first having been captain Bobby Moore, in 1993.