Posted: 4/25/2007
Title: BALL OF FIRE

Blog:                                                                                                                         

    It was sad to hear the news that Allan Ball, the youngest member of England's World Cup winning team in 1966 had died of an apparant heart attack in his garden at the relatively young age of 61.

    I first remember him as a teenage player with Blackppol F.C. and after the World Cup triumph he moved for the then expensive price of 110,000 to Everton, and formed an extraordinary midfield partnership with Colin Harvey and Howard Kendall-both of whom later became Everton managers, and the trio were instrumental in winning the English championship for the Toffees in 1970-71 season.

     A few days before the World Cup I visited the England camp at their training headquarters in Lilleshall, Shropshire, where he roomed with Jeff Astle. I talked with the assistant coach Harald Shepperton who said that Bally was the life and sole of the squad. He was a big family man and when he told his dad Allan Ball Sr. that he had made Sir Alf Ramsay's squad, his dad was not that impressed. "Make the team not just the squad" retorted his dad, who was a coach. The father was tragically killed in a car crash in Cyprus in 1982 where he was coaching at the time.  Young Ball was a red headed dynamo, and has often been likened to Paul Scholes of Manchester United, also a red head. His famous squeeky, high pitched voice was known the world over and he went on to play for Arsenal and Southamton, who he later coached, along with Portsmouth, Blackpool and others.  He had lost his wife Leslie to cancer 3 years ago and his daughter was also suffering from cancer and he sold his medals at auction for over $330,000 a year or so ago. He was superb and popular on the after-dinner speaking circuit, which is a big money earners for 'legends' these days. 

   He was the second 1966 World Cup winner to die after captain Bobby Moore succumbed to cancer a decade ago.  Sir Alf told him and Nobby Stiles to run around and win the ball and then give it to Bobby Charlton to score goals.  Sir Tom Finney, the current Preston North End President and former Preston and England legend, believed that Ball was 'man of the match' in the final, though overshadowed by the hat-trick of Sit Geoff Hurst.   Former manager Laurie McMenammy said that he was like Steven Gerrard and 'priceless', although today would be worth a 10-15 million transfer fee.

   In 1969 I was with the England team at the Guadalajara Hilton, a year prior to their defending their title in that charming city, where they were playing Mexico at the Estadio Jalisco. Team mate for club and country Colin Harvey did something that was unthinkable for a journalist or fan today. I was invited to go to training on the England team bus, introduced to Allan Ball, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Sir Alf and all the players, and given an England shirt.   I was at the match in Leon on a very hot day in June 1970 when England, leading West Germany 2-0 even with goalkeeper Gordon Banks out sick, when Ramsey substituted Charlton and the Germans came back to win 3-2. Prior to the 1974 World Cup in West Germany Ball was sent off in Poland, was banned from the return fixture at Wembley and the Poles tied 1-1 and England were eliminated and didn't play in the World Cup again until 1982.

    Giggs scored a hat-trick for United last Saturday!!! Well, how did he manage that when they only tied 0-0 with Middlesborough? Actually it was Ryan's younger brother Rhodi Giggs, playing for the breakaway team FC UNITED, and he scored three goals in his team's victory over Salford City 4-2 in the North West Counties Legue Division 1.  They have won the league and move up to the Unibond Division 1 league next season-only 4 steps below the Football League.  Formed as a protest movement not just to the Glazer family take-over but to high admission prices and blatant commercialism.

   They play at Football League club Bury FC's ground, appropriately named Gigg Lane, in Greater Manchester and attract about 2,500 fans at home games, more than Bury and some other Football League II clubs do.  The players and fans still support Manchester United in the pubs on TV, but not in the stadium. The Glazers borrowed money for their take-over and the club lost $270 million last year and paid $175.00 million so far in interest to service the debt-money that perhaps could have been used to lower prices, though with supply and demand and the attractive displays of this season, the Old Trafford Stadium is always at capacity.

    A couple of years ago Jose Mourinho the Chelsea boss had a touchline ban from UEFA and it has been alleged that the coach arrived in the home team dressing room at Stamford Bridge for a pre-match briefing prior to their Champons League match with FC Bayern Munich in a laundry basket. These are known as 'skips' and are traditionally made of wicker, but some modern one are aluminum. He also gave  his fitness trainer Rui Fara an earpiece that was not fully hidden from the TV cameras in a woolly hat to illegally communicate to him from a distance.

 

  

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