Back in the mid 60’s Blackpool were a solid top division club, able to field a team containing England internationals like keeper Tony Waiters, full back Jimmy Armfield and the prolific Ray Charnley, a lanky old-fashioned centre-forward, who scored 193 goals in 363 appearances for the club.
Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Blackpool at Goodison evokes strong memories. It was for the Tangerines that the legendary Alan Ball first played professional football, where he learnt his trade, and it was events at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool on Saturday January 15 1966 that turned out to be a watershed in the history of Everton Football Club. It may well have been the day that manager Harry Catterick decided that he had to have Alan Ball; Everton lost 2-0 to a goal by Charnley and an own goal from Colin Harvey, but the wily Catterick will have been impressed by the young flame-haired dynamo playing at inside forward for the opposition, whose work rate and superb passing by all accounts took Everton apart that day.
We all make mistakes, in every walk of life, luckily for us they are usually forgotten, however some are not: The Titanic was labelled ‘unsinkable.’ Joseph Heller’s classic novel ‘Catch 22’ was rejected by over twenty publishers before Simon & Shuster eventually read the manuscript and decided to publish; it went on to sell 10 million copies and spawn a film. Tchaikovsky’s great Violin Concerto in D Major was booed when it was first performed in Vienna in December 1881, one critic describing it as “long and pretentious.” Then there is Bill Ridding, the manager of Bolton Wanderers in the 1960’s, who took a teenager called Alan Ball on trial to have a look at him. Bill had him train with Bolton and decided, after due consideration, to reject him on the grounds that at 5’6” he was too small. Ridding was unimpressed and sent young Alan away with the comment “you’ll make a good little jockey” ringing in his ears. How Ball must have burned with anger at that put-down. Blackpool did not make the same mistake.
Catterick had started that Saturday afternoon badly in the eyes of most Evertonians by dropping the talismanic Alex Young and handing a league debut to a virtually unknown 16 year-old centre-forward, who in years to come would write himself firmly into the history of the Toffees - his name, Joe Royle. After the game Catterick was jostled and booed as he boarded the team coach by fans who, unknowing at the time, would for years to come have reason to celebrate the decisions taken by Catterick that day. On the ride home Catterick must have pondered. He already had the precociously gifted Colin Harvey in his midfield but what if he paired him with that Alan Ball, with his energy, his goals, and his sublime passing, what a creative force that would be. We will of course never know but we might also suppose that Catterick already had his sights on another young man playing in the north-west, Howard Kendall of Preston North End, who was, he knew, attracting the interest of rivals Liverpool and Manchester United.
Catterick bought Alan Ball from Blackpool in August 1966 for £112,000. Six months later he signed Howard Kendall for £85,000 and of course Joe Royle went on to score over one hundred goals for his beloved Everton. And, as they say, the rest is history.
This article was first posted by Dixies60 on Nov 3, 2010