Alan Ball: Ask A Silly Question

Morning, Mr Ball.
Morning, and you can call me Bally.

Very kind, Bally. When did you last punch a man?
Ooh, some years ago now. You have to stick up for yourself, don’t you?

Indeed. Was this on the football field?
No, in a pub. Well, just outside a pub. In those days, you took people outside, didn’t you?

Ah, a more gentlemanly breed of thug back then.
That was the way, yeah. And there was only one of them – not a gang of them like you’d get today.

So did you beat him to a bloody pulp?
No, I got one and I took one.

Some scrap. As a small ginger lad, you must have been a prime target for the school bullies.
They tried, but I fought back. You had to where I was from [Farnworth, near Bolton].  I was brought up that way.

Those Argentinians in 1966 were bully boys, weren’t they?
Oh, from the moment we kicked off. It was the quarter-final of the World Cup, and they were up to every trick in the book to avoid a free-flowing football match. When you went down, they tweaked your ear, pulled your hair…

Pulled your shorts up your backside?
Oh, everything you can imagine, they were up to it. Everything. It was a way of football we’d never seen before.

How did you celebrate winning the World Cup?
I went with my wife, my girlfriend then, to Danny La Rue’s club. Us, Nobby Stiles, John Connolly, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst. Ronnie Corbett was on that night.

Oh dear.
No, it was a great night. We were treated just unbelievably. Danny La Rue was absolutely fantastic and so proud that we’d won. We never paid for a thing – we had a cake, Champagne until we couldn’t drink any more…

Are you much of a boozer, Bally?
I like a pint… at the weekends.

Stout? Fizzy?
I like IPA, with a head on it. I’m a Lancashire lad, so don’t give me any of that flat beer.

When did you last imbibe so heavily you forgot your own name?
Er… I do that about once a week.

Have you ever been in a karaoke bar?
Er, yes… it was in China.

Wham Rap? Number Of The Beast?
No, no, I sang Tony Bennett, I Left My Heart In San Francisco. Was it any good? Well, with my voice, I hit the high notes, put it that way.

Have you thought about having your nose pierced?
You’re joking, aren’t you?

Only partly.
It looks ridiculous. And don’t talk to me about tattoos…

Why not?
Ha ha! What’s wrong with these people?

Could you drown a small bag of puppies in a pond for money?
No, no, no.

No, no. I love dogs.

Good. We were only testing you. Was instructing your lads to play keep-ball in the corner a mistake when you needed to score to stay up?
I’ll never live that one down, will I? We were two-down against Liverpool, Man City, and we got it to 2-2 and then someone said to me, “Southampton are getting beat 1-0 – a draw’s enough!”

Man in a shellsuit? Perm, ‘tache?
No, no, he was a City punter. I’d asked him to keep me in touch with the other games because there were a few clubs who could have gone down. So I told the players to take it into the corner but, as soon as I got the message on, the bloke said, “They’ve disallowed it.” And then I had to change it round again. I looked the biggest prat of all time.

Funny, though. Who’s your biggest celebrity pal outside of football?
Probably… Jimmy Tarbuck.

And Lynchy?
Yeah, Lynchy too. They’re both great fun, as you’d imagine.

Scamps to a man. What are you doing when you put the phone down?
I’m going to get up, get changed and sign some books.

Get changed? You’re not doing this interview in your pants, are you?
No, I’m actually in bed with nowt on.

Crikey, best wrap this one up, then.
Yeah. Bye.

From the November 2004 issue of FourFourTwo.

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