Paying tribute to Alan Ball, a Pompey and England hero

Pompey manager Alan Ball, right, celebrating  the club's 1986-87 promotion-winning season, with chairman John Deacon.
Pompey manager Alan Ball, right, celebrating the club's 1986-87 promotion-winning season, with chairman John Deacon.

Alan Ball is fondly remembered for his two stints as Pompey’s manager – and both times he shepherded the club through key periods in its history.

Now Remembering Bally, the ultimate tribute to a football icon comes to Portsmouth.

The evening will feature the man himself with extracts from his last after-dinner speech as the show take a journey through his life and career. From being told he was too small to make it as a professional footballer to that glorious summer of 1966 when he was not only a World Cup winner but labelled ‘man of the match’ in that historic final at Wembley by no less a figure than Geoff Hurst.

And there will be a whole host of special guests sharing their stories of the great man, delving into memories of Alan’s time at Fratton Park, including that unforgettable promotion season of 86/87. 

Special guests Include Vince Hilaire, Alan Knight, Lee Sanford, Dave Waterman, Nile Blake and Jimmy Ball, with more to be announced.

Alan’s son Jimmy Ball explains the show’s origin: ‘It was just people from his various clubs talking to us and saying you should do something to keep the memory alive.
‘As a family he’s with us every day, so we don’t feel like that, but there’s lots of fans out there, lots of people who adored him and respect him and what he did for their football clubs.

‘Obviously we’re immensely proud of him so it’s not as if it’s something we don’t like doing as well – remembering him and seeing the love and adoration that’s still out there for him.’

The show has visited other cities associated with Alan’s career, and as such the show does change from place to place.

But Alan finished his managerial career with Pompey, and lived in Warsash until his tragic death of a heart attack in 2007, aged just 61. 

‘We do change it around,’ says Jimmy, ‘but he was just himself wherever he went, there’s not a lot of difference – he wasn’t different for any set of fans he played or managed for –  he gave everything. 

‘He wore his heart on his sleeve and showed his emotions, sometimes too openly, but I think that’s what brought him to the fans’ hearts, particularly with the Pompey fans. He always had an affinity with them, he absolutely fell in love with the football club, he understood it, he got the city, he got the people and he produced some unbelievable football for them.’

During his second stint with the club, he masterminded a miraculous escape from relegation while the club was in administration. But six months after new owner Milan Mandaric came in, Alan was gone.

‘After Milan Mandaric sacked him, he said that was him done, and he’d done what he set out to do, and that was to help the club survive - not just from relegation, literally survive. He was quite proud of that.’

Jimmy, now 43, has fond memories of Fratton Park, though.

‘I remember it vividly, I grew up at Fratton Park, it was my childhood, it’s in my bones, all the players, the great football they played. They could have it anyway you wanted, wherever they wanted, wherever they played, if the opposition wanted a scrap, then that was not a problem, if they wanted to play football that was also not a problem. Although they were a bunch of very uncompromising men, they could also play.

‘He loved combative midfield players, the Mickey Kennedys, the Barry Hornes, the Kevin Dillons – there were so many fantastic footballers they had there – they’re like cult heroes at the club.’

And even though he spent time at bitter rivals Southampton, Alan continues to command enduring respect from both ends of the M27.

‘I travel around, I’m up at Stoke City at the moment coaching, but it’s a great sense of pride for my sisters who are still on the south coast, knowing they can go to either city and there’s no animosity, and not many people have done that and are able to be loved by both sets of fans - which is something we’re all proud of.’

The night will also be supporting three amazing causes, raising funds for The Oakley Waterman Foundation, Portsmouth In the Community and the Portsmouth FC Academy.

REMEMBERING BALLY

Kings Theatre, Southsea

Friday, September 21

kingsportsmouth.co.uk