"I remember thinking that he must have been some player to wear those white boots - and Alan Ball was some player." It's hard to disagree with the words of David O'Leary.
Ball's arrival at Highbury in December 1971 was big news. Arsenal had just done the Double but, just months later, they were splashed out a British record transfer fee to land the World Cup-winning England star. It was money well spent.
|Arsenal Career||1971 - 1976|
|Appearances||217 (217 starts, 0 as a sub)|
Ball caught the eye in more ways than one. His technique and passing ability made Arsenal a more attractive side to watch. He got his fair share of goals - 52 in 217 appearances. And, of course, he sported those trademark white boots.
Surprisingly Ball didn't win a trophy with Arsenal. He came close - Ball was part of the team which was beaten 1-0 by Leeds United in the 1972 FA Cup Final and finished as runners-up in the league the following season.
A natural leader, Ball took on the captaincy at the start of the 1973/74 campaign and became Arsenal's most influential performer as the Double side of 1971 fragmented and a new generation of players - including Liam Brady - began to emerge.
Injury denied Arsenal of Ball's services at the start of the 1974/75 season and results suffered in his absence. Relegation was averted but Ball lasted just one more full season at Highbury, helping the struggling Gunners secure their top-flight status for a second time in 1975/76. Without Ball, the unthinkable might well have happened.
Ball left Arsenal in December 1976 and joined Southampton, enjoying something of a renaissance as he helped the Saints win promotion to the top flight. He ended his playing days in America and went on to manage seven clubs over a 19-year period, including two spells at Portsmouth.
Awarded an MBE in 2000 for his services to football, Ball died of a heart attack at the age of 61 in April 2007. The tributes poured in from stunned former team-mates.
"In my opinion he was one of Arsenal's greatest players of all time," said Brady. "He helped me greatly and, with David O'Leary, Frank Stapleton and Graham Rix, I feel he contributed a great deal towards our careers, passing on his experience of the game."