Local lad was a world beater

The Bolton News: World Cup Winner, Alan Ball World Cup Winner, Alan Ball

HE was raised in a modest corner terrace in Farnworth - but Alan Ball went on to conquer Wembley and became one of England's footballing greats.

Alan, the son of Alan senior and Violet, was born in Townleys Hospital, Bolton, during VE week in May, 1945.

He spent his early years living with his mother at his grandparents' home, in Brookhouse Avenue, Farnworth, and his uncle's terrace home in Bentinck Street, while his father served in the armed forces abroad.

When he was aged three - around the time his mother gave birth to a sister, Carolyn - it was clear to his family that he was developing an interest in sport.

His uncle, Trevor Ball, who is only six years his senior, regularly took him to Gladstone Road and Moses Gate to play football.

Trevor, who lives in Avondale Road, Farnworth, and is the brother of Alan Ball senior - who also became a footballer and manager - said: "He used to follow me around because I was older.

"He was very young when he started showing promise as a footballer. He never did anything else but kick a ball around and even as a child he was focused.

"He said to me: I'll go to Wembley one day, but it won't be until I play there'."

Alan attended St Peter's CE School, Farnworth, and then Farnworth Grammar, where he represented the school at football, cricket and cross-country running.

As a teenager, he had trials at Bolton Wanderers but was rejected because of his size.

Bill Ridding, the manager at Burnden Park at the time, told him: "The only apprenticeship you'll get, lad, is as an apprentice jockey."

Despite that setback, he built a hugely successful career in football, firstly at Blackpool and then with Everton, Arsenal and Southampton.

At 21 years old, he was the youngest member of the team that won the World Cup for England at Wembley in 1966.

He gave his medal to his grandfather to show around Farnworth pubs, telling him: "This belongs to the fans as much as me."

Trevor said: "When Wanderers let Alan go, he said he'd prove them wrong. He told his dad he'd play for England before he was 20 - and at 19, he did.

"He was a driven young man and his self-belief was fantastic.

"I was with his dad at Wembley in 1966. It was a proud day. His mum loved football but she wouldn't go to watch in case Alan got injured."

Alan, who at the time was living with his parents and sister in Enfield Street, Walkden, returned to a civic reception in Walkden attended by more than 300 people.

A year later, he married childhood sweetheart Lesley Newton - a Kearsley hairdresser - at St Stephen's Church, Kearsley. The couple enjoyed a reception at the Last Drop Village, before honeymooning in Ibiza.

His uncle, Trevor, stepped in as best man, after England team-mate, Nobby Stiles, was called away on a football tour.

The newlyweds settled in Greenleach Lane, Worsley, and had three children, Miranda, Keeley and Jimmy.

Alan's father, who had been manager at Preston North End and Halifax Town, was killed in a car crash in Cyprus in 1982. His mother died four years ago.

His wife, Lesley, died of ovarian cancer in May, 2004, after years of battling against the disease.

Former professional footballer, Carl Davenport, of Astley Bridge, was one of Alan's closest friends. They were given a trial together at Wanderers and Carl, now aged 62, joined Preston when Alan joined Blackpool. They travelled to their clubs by train from Bolton each morning.

Carl, who went on to be player-manager at Irish side Cork Hibernians, was holidaying in Spain when he heard of Alan's death.

He said: "Alan was my best pal, this has come as a big shock. I was on a golf holiday with him in Cork four months ago and I spoke to him last week.

"I'll miss talking to him every week and meeting up with him, having a laugh.

"We went everywhere together while growing up. His father encouraged me in my career and Alan was a great influence.

"We'd get on that train every morning and Alan used to be envious of me because I played for Preston reserves when he played for Blackpool's fifth team.

"One day he said: There have been five injuries, I've made the team'. A few years later I was watching my best mate play at Wembley.

"He was the nicest, most down-to-earth and generous man you could meet."

When Alan wrote his 2005 autobiography, Playing Extra Time, he made special reference to his Farnworth Grammar PE teacher, John "JD" Dickinson.

Alan, at 5ft 6in tall, told how Mr Dickinson had faith in his ability, despite his pint-sized stature.

Mr Dickinson, now aged 72, who put the budding star forward for trials with Lancashire Boys, said yesterday: "At 14 years old, Alan scored every goal in a 6-0 win for the school. I knew he was something special. I followed his career with great satisfaction.

"It's terrible to think he's gone, but what a life of achievements. He was a popular kid and a wonderful man."

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