If I told you that former England international, World Cup winner and Pompey manager Alan Ball once turned out in a Scotland shirt, I am sure you would accuse me of being a fantasist.
If I told you that fellow World Cup winner and England captain Bobby Moore turned out on a recreation ground for a local works team, you might think I was talking about someone with the same name. But both tales are true.
Joe McCue lives at Cowplain but hails from Edinburgh and in 1968, two years after he married Margaret, the couple emigrated to Cape Town, South Africa.
Joe used to work as a sales manager for a car company and became involved with the local football scene.
In Cape Town at the time there were two professional teams, Hellenic and Cape Town City. Hellenic was managed by John ‘Budgie’ Byrne the ex-Crystal Palace, West Ham and England international.
Many guest players from England, perhaps past their prime, used to visit South Africa for two months out-of-season and turn out for these teams. At different times they included Bobby Moore, who was with Fulham at the time, Alan Ball and Ian St John, who both later managed Pompey, plus Geoff Hurst of West Ham, Kevin Keegan of Liverpool, George Best of Manchester United and Northern Ireland, Frank McClintock of Arsenal and George Eastham, also of Arsenal. The apartheid regime meant there were three types of leagues based on race – black, white and coloured (mixed race).
No British football league teams were allowed to tour South Africa in those dark days, only individual players could turn out as ‘guests’.
Joe got to know Budgie and asked him to play for his local team. In turn, Budgie asked Bobby Moore if he fancied a kickabout game on Sundays at the local recreation ground called Camps Bay. He also agreed.
One of the local sides in the league was the Black & Decker factory team. They were told that Bobby Moore was playing for the opposition and under no circumstances were they to be aggressive or try to kick him up in the air.
They took no notice and did attempt to spoil Bobby’s game, but came unstuck.
Joe says: ‘It was Bobby who ended up taking the mickey out of them. He ran rings around them.’
I asked Joe what Bobby Moore was like. He says: ‘A true gentleman with no airs or graces. He never boasted about the World Cup win or other great things he had done.
‘I remember one day my pal John Wibberley’s dad came to watch. He was in a wheelchair as both his legs had been amputated.
‘Bobby sat down and chatted to him for 40 minutes. John’s dad was over the moon and no doubt talked about it for the rest of his days.’
There was a great social life in Cape Town at that time and many players including Bobby would arrive at Joe’s home for a braai, the local word for a barbecue.
Another anecdote Joe recalled was the time his team played Goodwood Body & Spray. As pubs and bars were not allowed to open on a Sunday in South Africa at that time, after the game the teams went to an Italian sports club which had a special drinks licence.
Of course, Bobby was recognised instantly and he sat down at a table and signed autographs for an hour without a word of complaint. ‘He truly was a wonderful person,’ Joe says.
In the early 1970s there was a travelling circus of players who arrived in Cape Town. They were allowed to play in four matches. They were all sponsored by local companies and well paid for their efforts. As mentioned, Alan Ball was included as a guest player with Hellenic.
Budgie also persuaded him to turn out for Joe’s Sunday kick-about, but on one occasion it was a little different.
Joe arranged a friendly against the league’s referees, but the only shirts available were Scottish international team shirts which Joe had acquired. Bally was always competitive, particularly when playing Scotland. He wore the shirt reluctantly and told Joe: ‘If you ever let this photograph be seen by a journalist, I will never talk to you again.’
Joe took him at his word and what you see here is the first time the photograph of Alan Ball in a Scotland shirt has been published.
After ten years in South Africa, Joe and the family returned to England and settled in Cowplain where they still live. They often return to South Africa for holidays.