Everton FC 12 days of Christmas - The greatest number eight of them all, little curly Alan Ball
EVERTON have been blessed with some great players who have worn the number eight shirt down the years but few have bestrode the world footballing stage more than Alan Ball. The diminutive midfielder was already regarded as one of the finest players in the country after four seasons in Blackpool's midfield - his first team debut came in a 2-1 win at Anfield in August 1962 at the age of just 17 - but it was performance in England's triumphant 1966 World Cup campaign that really put him on the footballing map. 'Perpetual Motion', as he was known, worked like a dynamo wide in midfield for Ramsay's 'Wingless Wonders', his contribution exemplified by commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme's description of him "running himself daft" as he sped down the wing to set up Geoff Hurst's controversial second goal in extra time of the Final against West Germany. Just a month after Wembley glory, Ball was on his way to Everton. after Harry Catterick beat Leeds' Don Revie to the punch by paying a then British record fee of £112,000 to acquire the 21-year-old. He marked his debut with the winning goal at Fulham and then a week later scored two early goals in a 3-1 win over reigning champions Liverpool at Goodison to ensure the Blues faithful were well and truly smitten with their new arrival. Bill Shankly had reportedly quipped to Ball, 'Never mind Alan, at least you'll be able to play near to a great team' after he'd joined Everton but he was left to eat his words again the following March when the midfielder scored the only goal of an FA Cup fifth round tie between the sides at Goodison that, thanks to a closed-circuit TV broadcast at Anfield, was watched by over 100,000 Merseysiders.
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