A legend to both sides - Alan Ball
When English, strike that world football lost Alan Ball, one of its true greats in April I wrote this article - with Everton being our opponents this coming weekend I feel it only fitting that this article be revisited, with some minor alterations and updates, so we - both Pompey and hopefully Everton fans - can pay true tribute to a man with such great connections to both sides...
When I woke on the morning of Wednesday 25th April 2007 to the very sad news that football had lost one of its all time greats Alan Ball, who had died at the age of 61 having suffered a fatal heart attack on the Tuesday night I was truly devastated, as were so many people around the world.
In a day and age when some only have to have a good game of two to be classed as a 'legend', Ball was just that - a true legend and I defy anyone to question this.
Along with a select band Ball achieved what only a few Englishmen have ever achieved - and are likely to achieve for that matter - he picked a world cup winners medal after playing a major part in helping us win the 1966 world cup. This alone was enough for his legend status, but he was more than 'just a world cup winner', this just gave him extra credence for such a title.
Ball's connections to the club down the road were always likely to prove hard for some to overcome, and so this proved after his arrival in 1984.
After two seasons of knocking on the promotion door back to Division One - the days when this was the modern day equivalent of the Premiership, Ball took us back to the top flight in 1987. We suffered an instant return to Division Two but he had taken us there!
After our relegation, and as the financial difficulties kicked in we struggled in the Second Division - as we did for the majority of the years before our promotion to the Premiership - and Ball was sacked in 1989.
If it was hard for the fans to accept Ball the first time round after his playing connection to the saints, a 16 month spell in charge of them as a manager - saving them from relegation from the Premiership in the mid 90s - meant some took to him even less when he returned for a second spell in charge at Fratton Park early in 1998.
He returned with us cut adrift at the foot of the old Division One but again made himself a hero to the Fratton faithful when he saved us from relegation with a dramatic final day win over Bradford. With the club in financial crisis Ball was relieved of his duties at the end of 1999 and sadly did not manage again...
My feelings on Ball arriving at Fratton Park after his relationships with our rivals is no different to any other, these are things that are in the past and as far as I am concerned they are just another team, as soon as they cross that boarder to the Blue side they are one of us and as such I get behind them as I would any other with Pompey connections. My feelings are it takes nerve and courage, not to mention balls of steel to do this once let alone twice as Bally did.
Without Ball we would not have enjoyed a brief return to the top flight in the 80s and without him it is highly likely that we would not have remained in the second level of English football for as long as we had before finally returning to the top flight, to be on the verge of taking our place in Europe for the first time in our history - be that this season or in seasons in the not too distant future.
Ball's induction into the English Football Hall of Fame was the least he deserved; his MBE awarded in 2000 however was long overdue but not enough!
I still find it hard to understand why some members of that world cup winning team were knighted but not all of them, including Ball? Other than scoring a hat trick in the final - I know not something that happens every day, but did Sir Geoff Hurst really do much more for England than Ball, or did he achieve more in football than Ball to deserve this?
Alan Ball - not only an English legend but a Pompey legend as well, basically a legend with all the clubs he played for and/or managed including, probably more so than anyone else really Everton.
Rest in Peace SIR Alan Ball...
At that time - of originally writing this - I had hoped that all clubs would show him the true respect that he deserved when the weekend games at that time arrived - and how all clubs did, the respect and tributes paid by clubs up and down the country that first weekend after his death were amazing.
The atmosphere at Fortress Fratton that weekend was fantastic too and 'Alan Ball's blue and white army' rang out for virtually the full 90 minutes of our win over Liverpool. It would have been fantastic if we could have faced Everton that weekend, instead of the weekend after.
Maybe it wont happen, but I really do hope that the fans will recognise the Bally connection - which clearly they are not stupid so will do - and we can have plenty of 'Alan Ball's blue and white army' chants from all 4 corners of the Fortress this weekend...
PLAY UP POMPEY!
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