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Alan Ball The Man in White Boots By David Tossell

Release date: 10th October, 2018
Publisher: Hodder & Staughton

List Price: £20.00
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Alan Ball was born on 12th May 1945, four days after VE Day. The nation was still enjoying a collective celebration, the like of which it wouldn’t see again (at least in England) for another 21 years, after Ball and his teammates achieved victory over West Germany to win the World Cup.

Ball got his break when he joined Blackpool in 1961, making his league debut for the club as a 17-year-old in 1962. He collected his first England cap three years later in a 1-1 draw against Yugoslavia. Though he wasn’t supposed to favour wingers, Sir Alf Ramsey recognised Ball’s qualities: his relentless running, a natural ability to play short passes and move immediately into space and, above all, his courage. For a small man, Ball was a tough nut.

Of course, Ball will always be remembered for his tireless performance in the 1966 World Cup Final when at the age of 21, he became the youngest member of England’s World Cup winning team.

A month later, he moved from Blackpool to Everton for a record fee of £110,000 where, with Howard Kendall and Colin Harvey, he formed the Blues’ midfield ‘Holy Trinity’. It was on Merseyside that Ball played perhaps the best football of his career and was pivotal to Everton’s 1970 league title success.

At the beginning of the following season, he famously donned the white boots referred to in the book’s title during the Charity Shield match against Chelsea. Following the game, Hummell sold 12,000 pairs of white boots – ironic as Ball wore an old Adidas pair that had been painted white.

In 1971, Ball moved to Arsenal for another record fee - £220,000 after the Gunners had completed the Cup and League double, but his years with them were not so successful.

David Tossell is an accomplished sports writer (and flags up his affinity for Arsenal, for whom Ball played, early in this biography), but surprisingly The Man in White Boots fails to engage with readers in the way his two excellent biographies, of Derek Dougan and Tony Greig, did. This is a pity because the author has clearly researched his subject in depth and draws upon conversations with close family, as well as a host of Ball’s contemporaries. Fans of the clubs for whom the human dynamo played will enjoy this book, but we await the definitive Alan Ball biography.

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