Ten years on from death of Pompey legend Ball

Alan Ball with son Jimmy after Pompey won promotion to the First Division at the end of the 1986-87 season
Alan Ball with son Jimmy after Pompey won promotion to the First Division at the end of the 1986-87 season
Pompey winger Carl Baker Picture: Joe Pepler

Baker in stand-off with Pompey

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TODAY marks 10 years since the death of legendary Pompey boss Alan Ball.

Ball is remembered as one of the club’s all-time managerial greats after leading the Blues back to the top flight of the English game after a 28-year absence.

And Bally’s ‘Gremlins’ became a team who chimed perfectly with the identity of the city they represented.

The England international arrived at Fratton Park as youth-team manager in 1983.

Within a year, he was elevated to manager after Bobby Campbell’s shock departure.

In his first season, goal difference denied his team promotion as they missed out to Manchester City.

There was more pain in 1985-86 as Ball’s men again finished a single place outside of the automatic slots to go up.

But it was third-time lucky the following campaign, as promotion was secured with the Blues finishing second in Division Two behind Derby.

Pompey’s no-nonsense approach and hard drinking off the pitch was what they became renowned for, but that didn’t tell the story of a talented and perfectly-balanced side.

It proved a short-term but memorable flirtation with the big time, however, as Ball’s men went down fighting at the first attempt.

Dealing with the loss of key players and Mick Kennedy being sold to Bradford mid-way through the campaign were major factors in the relegation.

After Jim Gregory’s arrival as owner, Ball departed Fratton Park in 1989 – replaced by John Gregory.

But he was to return in the club’s hour of need in 1998 with Pompey cast adrift at the foot of Division One and in deep financial turmoil.

A memorable ‘wall of noise’ in a 1-0 win against Stockport sparked a run of five victories and two draws, with survival secured on the final day at Bradford – cementing Ball’s place in Pompey folklore.

His words are immortalised in Fratton Park’s tunnel today, summing his understanding of a place he regarded as a ‘tough street-fighting city’.

This is Portsmouth – people went to war from this city.