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Alan Ball (MBE)

Manager Portsmouth Football Club
May 1984 – January 1989 

January 1998 – December 1999

In 2003 Ball was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his talents.

May 1984 - January 1989
Ball's managerial career with Portsmouth commenced in May 1984 and was a huge success. Pompey narrowly missed winning promotion to the top flight First Division in his first two seasons as manager. Ball finally guided Pompey to the top flight in 1987. Unfortunately, by the middle of the 1987–88 season the club was again in grave financial trouble and were relegated to the Second Division after just one season back among the elite.
The summer of 1988 saw Deacon sell the club to London based businessman and former Queens Park Rangers Chairman, Jim Gregory. Alan Ball was sacked in January 1989 for failing to mount a serious promotion challenge after having a serious personality clash with Portsmouth's new chairman Jim Gregory.

January 1998–December 1999    Back to Portsmouth

The   Pompey Chimes | Alan Ball | Manager of Portsmouth Football Club | May 1984 to January 1989 and January 1998 to December 1999 In January 1998, Ball was contacted by Brian Howe, who informed him he was to make a takeover bid for the club and that he would like Ball to manage the club. This led to Ball returning to Portsmouth as manager in February 1998, however the take-over never came about. When he was appointed Pompey were several points adrift at the bottom of the table and enduring a near-fatal financial crisis, going into administration for over a year. In 1998 he masterminded a miraculous escape that saw two of his former sides (Stoke City and Manchester City) relegated after Pompey won 3–1 at Bradford City on the final day of the season. He also kept them up in the 1998–9 season, but his contract was terminated on 9 December 1999 with the club in the lower half of Division One. His departure came 6 months after the club was rescued from financial oblivion by new owner Milan Mandaric. On his retirement, 54-year-old Ball was the last remaining England World Cup winner in management

Alan Ball MBE (born May 12th 1945 in Farnworth, Bolton, Lancashire) was a footballer who was the youngest member of England's 1966 World Cup winning team
  • 1 Blackpool
  • 2 A teenage England international
  • 3 A world champion
  • 4 Everton
  • 5 Arsenal
  • 6 A villain of Poland
  • 7 From captain to outcast
  • 8 Southampton
  • 9 Management
    • 9.1 Success with Pompey
    • 9.2 Disappointment with Stoke
    • 9.3 Exeter and England
    • 9.4 Brief success with the Saints
    • 9.5 Disappointment with City
    • 9.6 Back at Pompey
  • 10 Belated honours
  • 11 Personal tragedy and sacrifice
  • 12 External links


A tireless, marauding midfield player who could operate centrally or on the right flank, Ball came to prominence at Blackpool after falling foul of his headmaster over missing games for his school team due to a youth contract he had acquired with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

After leaving school, Wolves decided not to take Ball on, and he started training with Bolton Wanderers but they too decided not to give him a professional deal, saying he was too small. Blackpool then signed him up after Ball's father, an ex-player himself, called in a favour with the coach, an old friend with whom he used to play. Ball was given a trial and was immediately signed up.

A teenage England international

He made his debut in 1962 and managed 116 League appearances. Despite being in an unglamorous and struggling team, Ball's industry, stamina and distribution was noticed by England manager Alf Ramsey, who gave him his international debut in 1965 in a 1-1 draw with Yugoslavia, three days before turning twenty.

Ramsey was preparing for the World Cup a year later, which England was to host, and was developing a system whereby England could deploy midfielders with a defensive and industrious bent, something which was not wholly guaranteed from conventional wide men. As a result, Ball became a useful tool for Ramsey to use - able to play conventionally wide or in the centre but still in possession of the energy to help out his defence when required.

Ball was the youngest member of the squad of 22 selected by Ramsey for the tournament, aged only just 21. Though England as a team emerged collectively heroic from the tournament, Ball was one of many players regarded as an individual success, especially as he was one of the more inexperienced charges with no proven record at the very highest level. Indeed, he, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters emerged with enormous credit and eternal acclaim from the competition - and all of them were still only in single figures for caps won by the time they were named in the team for the final against West Germany.

A world champion

The 100,000 crowd at Wembley witnessed a magnificent personal performance from Ball. Full of running, he continued to work and sprint and track back while team-mates and opponents alike were out on their feet. With fewer than 15 minutes to go, he won a corner on the right which he promptly took. Hurst hit a shot from the edge of the area which deflected into the air and down on to the instep of Peters, who rifled England 2-1 ahead.

The Germans equalised with seconds to go, meaning that the game went into extra time. Somehow, this instilled extra bounce into Ball's play and the image of his continuous running round the Wembley pitch, socks round his ankles, is one of the most enduring of the occasion. It was his chase and low cross which set up Hurst's massively controversial second goal, and England's third; he was also sprinting upfield, unmarked and screaming for a pass, as Hurst took the ball forward to smash his historic hat-trick goal with the last kick of the game.

England's fans and media were thrilled with the achievement and Ball was taken to the sport's bosom to the extent that the bids started coming in. It took a record offer of £110,000 from Everton later in 1966 before Blackpool let Ball go.


Ball settled into what became regarded as his generation's best midfield trio alongside Colin Harvey and Howard Kendall. Everton got to the 1968 FA Cup final but lost to West Bromwich Albion and were knocked out by Manchester City in the semi-finals the following year. Ball was instrumental in the team which won his first and only major domestic honour in the game as Everton took the 1970 Football League Championship title, seeing off a late challenge from Leeds United.

By now, Ball was one of the first names on Ramsey's England teamsheet and he was in the squad which travelled as defending champions to the altitude of Mexico for the 1970 World Cup. Ball famously hit the crossbar with a shot as England lost one of their group games 1-0 to Brazil, one of six strikingly prominent incidents from a fabulous game (the others being Jairzinho's goal; Jeff Astle's miss; Gordon Banks' save from Pelé; Bobby Moore's impeccable tackle on Jairzinho; and the sight of Pelé and Moore's mutual smiles of respect at the end as they exchanged shirts). England won their other group games and progressed to another showdown with West Germany in the quarter finals but the heat sapped Ball's natural industry. England lost a 2-0 lead and their reign as world champions ended with a 3-2 reverse.


Back at club level, Everton again capitulated in the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 1971, with Ball's opening goal overhauled by two strikes from Merseyside rivals Liverpool, who went on to lose the final to "double"-chasing Arsenal. Ball later picked up his 50th England cap in a match against Northern Ireland and at the end of 1971, Arsenal came up with a record offer of 220,000 pounds to take Ball to Highbury.

It was a great move by Arsenal, with Ball now 26 years of age and at his peak for both form and fitness. That said, Arsenal couldn't defend their League title in 1972 and also lost their grasp on the FA Cup when Leeds beat them 1-0 in the centenary final at Wembley. Ball again had to be content with a runners-up medal.

A villain of Poland

In 1973, Ball became only the second player to be sent off in a full international, reacting with fury to violent tactics by Poland in a qualifier for the 1974 World Cup in Warsaw. As a result, he missed the return game at Wembley which became one of the most notorious in England history - a 1-1 draw in which England were kept out almost entirely by Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski. England failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Ramsey was sacked as a result and Joe Mercer took over at a caretaker level, for whom Ball never appeared due to injury. However, Ball's relationship with his national side was enhanced and then infamously soured beyond repair when Don Revie was appointed as Ramsey's permanent replacement.

From captain to outcast

Ball was given the captaincy after the abrupt dropping of Emlyn Hughes by Revie and Ball held it for six consecutive games of varying importance, none of which England lost. Yet even though his charges had just comprehensively beaten Scotland 5-1 in May 1975, Ball was not called up at all, let alone retained as captain, when Revie announced his next squad for a game against Switzerland three months later. Ball only found out when his wife took a call from a journalist asking for her reaction. Only just 30, Ball's international career had ended suddenly and acrimoniously after 72 appearances and eight goals, when it had always seemed certain that he would get to 100 caps but for injury. His omission from the squad was one of a handful of PR calamities which raged through the Revie era at the helm of the England team.


Ball continued with Arsenal until the end of 1976 when he was sold to Southampton. Here was completed a coincidental symmetry to the three transfers in Ball's career - he had arrived at each club - Everton, Arsenal and Southampton - at the end of the calendar years of 1966, 1971 and 1976 respectively, when each were holders of the FA Cup. Yet Ball never won the Cup himself.

He helped Southampton back to the First Division in 1978 and picked up a League Cup runners-up medal in 1979 after they were beaten 3-2 by Nottingham Forest. Ball then went to play in the fledgling North American Soccer League for Vancouver Whitecaps.

His first club, Blackpool, came calling and Ball returned to Bloomfield Road as player manager but this didn't last after he was tempted back to Southampton to play alongside fellow veterans and former England team-mates Mick Channon and Kevin Keegan.

Ball played for Southampton in the top flight until he was 37 before joining Bristol Rovers, where he ended his playing days. He played a huge 975 competitive matches in his career.


Success with Pompey

Bravely, Ball went to Portsmouth to resume his management career and was a huge success, after 2 seasons of finishing in 4th spot he guided them to the top flight in 1987 while not incurring too much wrath from Southampton fans in the process. Sadly money was not forthcoming from the board, and despite some notable successes ( winning 2-0 at their hated rivals on 3rd January 1988 ) Pompey were relegated.

He left Portsmouth in 1989

Disappointment with Stoke

He managed Stoke City from 1989 to 1991 - enduring relegation to the Third Division in his first season as manager - before being dismissed in favour of Lou Macari.

Exeter and England

Ball managed Exeter City from July 1991 until January 1994, keeping them in the third tier of the English league against all odds. He also worked in the England team as one of the coaches under Graham Taylor.

Brief success with the Saints

In 1994, Ball went back to Southampton as manager and despite initial success, was tempted away a year later to become Manchester City's manager under the ownership of ex-England team-mate Francis Lee.

Disappointment with City

Ball's tenure at Maine Road was controversial, in that many observers and supporters felt he was appointed for his name and friendship with the chairman rather than for any credentials as a coach (and pointed out that previous manager Brian Horton, whom Lee had inherited from the previous regime, had done no wrong), and City were relegated from the Premiership on the last day of Ball's first full campaign. He quit three games into the following season.

Back at Pompey

Between February 1998 and October 1999, Ball returned to Portsmouth as manager but his contract was terminated after the club endured a near-fatal financial crisis and came close to relegation from Division One. When he was appointed Pompey were several points adrift at the bottom of the table. He masterminded a miraculous escape that saw 2 of his former sides ( Stoke City & Man. City ) relegated after Pompey won 3-1 at Bradford City on the final day of the season.

On his retirement, 54-year-old Ball was the last remaining England World Cup winner in management.

Belated honours

He later had another spell at Portsmouth. In 2000, he and four other members of the World Cup winning team were awarded the MBE for their services to football, an award which many felt was long overdue. Ball, along with Roger Hunt, Nobby Stiles, Ray Wilson and George Cohen, had to wait more than three decades for official recognition of their achievements.

In 2003 Ball was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his talents.

In April 2006 Ball became Honorary Patron of [B.E.S.T (British European Soccer Tuition)] - football coaching and tours across USA and Europe.

Personal tragedy and sacrifice

Always a distinctive figure thanks to his diminutive stature, his high-pitched voice and flame-red hair, Ball released his autobiography, Playing Extra Time, in 2004 and received much critical acclaim. Aside from his highs and lows in football, it also candidly detailed his private struggle as a family man after his wife and daughter were both diagnosed with cancer. His wife died later the same year.

In May 2005, Ball, who has three grandchildren, put his World Cup winners' medal and commemorative tournament cap up for auction to raise money for his family. It was sold for £140,000.


Ball died in the early hours of 25 April 2007 at his home in Warsash, Hampshire, following a heart attack. He was 61 years old. He suffered the fatal heart attack while attempting to put out a blaze in his garden that had started when a bonfire – on which he had earlier been burning garden waste – re-ignited and spread to a nearby fence. His funeral was held in Winchester Cathedral on 3 May 2007. Many of Ball's former football colleagues were in attendance, and the flat cap that he became famous for wearing was placed on top of his coffin. Ball is the second of the 1966 World Cup winning team to die, the first being captain Bobby Moore in 1993.

The Alan Ball Memorial Cup, a match between two squads of former international players, in the shape of "England vs The World", was played at stadium:mk in Milton Keynes on Sunday 29 July 2007, with proceeds going towards the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK and the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance Service.


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Hartlepool United 0 Pompey 0 (HT 0-0)

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Torquay United 0 Pompey 0 (HT 0-0)
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