Drafted into Alf Ramsey’s squad in 1965, Alan Ball was the youngest member of the 1966 World Cup-winning team.
He became a mainstay thanks to his ability to play in the centre of midfield or take his tireless running up the right flank. The seemingly bottomless well of energy Ball was able to draw on helped England overcome the stress of conceding a last-minute equaliser against West Germany in the Final at Wembley. Down came the midfielder’s socks and up went the tempo of his play as he refused to let the team grind to a halt.
His club career began at Blackpool, after false starts at both Wolverhampton Wanderers and Bolton Wanderers, the latter maintaining he was too small to make it as a professional.
Once established in the Seasiders’ first team, it wasn’t long before the big time came knocking in the form of Everton, where Ball joined Howard Kendall and Colin Harvey. This powerhouse midfield steered the Toffees to The FA Cup Final in 1968 and landed them the League title in 1970.
These impressive club performances meant Ball had become a fixture in Ramsey’s line-up. He travelled to Mexico in 1970 where he hit the crossbar during the memorable 1-0 defeat to Brazil. During 1971, Ball scored a goal in The FA Cup Semi-Final for Everton, but was on the losing side as Liverpool came back to win. Later that year he was on the move to London, when Arsenal came in for the 26-year-old. He would eventually finish his playing career with the Gunners.
Ball’s England career hit a low point in 1973 when he became only the second player to be sent off in a full international, away to Poland in a World Cup Qualifier. He was suspended for the return fixture at Wembley, which England needed to win but could only draw – meaning they missed out on the 1974 World Cup.