A Passing Legend
After hearing the news of the death of former England great Alan Ball, Dave Pickering writes about his personal memories of the winger.
Alan Ball - A personal memory
My first memory of Bally was when he signed for Blackpool F.C. as a tow-headed, precocious lad of 17 in 1962. I played most Saturdays myself in the Blackpool leagues so only saw him spasmodically, but I always went to mid-week games.
I watched him first in the reserves but it was obvious then that his talents would take him far. Ron Suart, the manager at the time, was always a cautious man and kept Bally in the reserves until the clamour from the fans forced him into the first team, and a legend was born.
People would say that Bally was an arrogant little 'so-and-so`, which he probably was at the time. But he backed it up with his tenacity in looking for the ball, and his non-stop endeavour on the field. And, as it proved later, off the field as well.
One game which stands out in my memory was in September of 1964 against Leeds United, one of the top teams of the day. It was a Monday evening I think. Blackpool were magnificent with Ball running the game. However, Billy Bremner, who was one of the most ruthless players I ever saw, kicked Bally round the pitch until he could stand it no longer and in front of the West Stand retaliated with, I think a punch, and was immediately sent off. By then Blackpool were winning 4-0 with goals by Oates, Charnley(2) and Ball.
When he was transferred to Everton, after winning the World Cup, the whole town was upset but Blackpool were on the slide and Bally wanted a bigger club so he was sold for a then record fee of £112,000.
Bally went on to play many times for England and was a member of the Championship side of Everton in 1967 (I think).
When Bally returned as manager in 1980 I was living in Bedfordshire and working most week-ends so I didn`t get to see the team very often but I do remember going to Oxford United to see The Pool With Ball as Player-Manager. He was outstanding even then and controlled the game. Blackpool won 2-0 with Ball scoring both, one a penalty. However I was very sad to see Ball fail as a manager, but unlike many people, to me he was still the Bally I had seen as a kid playing his first games for Blackpool. To me he has always been a hero and will remain so in my thoughts forever.
RIP Alan Ball. A true legend and a Blackpool great.