Tributes paid to World Cup hero

TRIBUTES flooded in today to 1966 World Cup hero Alan Ball after he died of a suspected heart attack.The former Everton and Arsenal midfielder, who also managed Colchester United after an illustrious playing career, died overnight at the age of 61.

FORMER Ipswich Town boss Joe Royle today paid tribute to his close friend and team-mate, World Cup winner, Alan Ball.

The youngest member of the victorious 1966 team died overnight at the age of 61 while attempting to fight a bonfire in his garden at his home in Hampshire.

He was found dead by firefighters outside his house in Warsash when they attended a 999 call at 12.15am today.

It is suspected he had suffered a massive heart attack while trying to put out the bonfire. Police are not treating his death as suspicious.

Mr Royle and Mr Ball were both members of the 1970 Everton team, which won the League Championship, as well as playing alongside each other for England during the early 1970s.

They remained close friends after they both left Everton, and Mr Royle saw the former England midfielder just a fortnight ago.

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He said: “We were at a dinner together and he seemed very well and full of life. I could not believe it when I heard the news this morning.”

Mr Ball's wife Lesley lost a long battle with cancer three years ago, and he seemed to be coming to terms with his loss.

Mr Royle said: “Alan told me that while he would never get over Lesley's death, he was starting to come to terms with it. Life for him was getting good again and he was enjoying himself.

“I just cannot get over the fact that his has happened so suddenly I can't believe it.”

Former Ipswich Town and England boss, Sir Bobby Robson also spoke of his shock as he paid tribute.

He said: “I am absolutely stunned. I can hardly believe it. Alan was a terrific guy.

“I saw him last summer when he came to play in a charity golf tournament I helped to organise on the Algarve and he was so full of life, his usual bubbly self.

“He sat on my table at dinner and he seemed to be enjoying life. He had a new woman, a lovely girl in his life and he was very upbeat.

“I am so sad to hear this news. Bally was one of the all-time great footballers as his status as a World Cup winner confirms.

“Alan was immensely popular throughout the game and beyond. This news will sadden an awful lot of people who knew him, admired him and respected him.”

Current Ipswich Town manager Jim Magilton today hailed the midfielder as one of football's greatest characters.

It was Mr Ball who took him to Southampton when the England World Cup winner was in charge of the Saints.

Mr Magilton said: “I learned an awful lot from him and there was no better football man.

“He had passion and enthusiasm like no other manager I have dealt with.

“He was one of the game's greatest characters and a fantastic motivator who did not suffer fools easily.

“He gave me my big chance at Southampton for which I am eternally grateful and I was upset when he left to go to Manchester City.

“We had finished 10th in the table and were an emerging side and he was a manager that you were desperate to do well for.

“He had a huge store of football stories and it was a terrible blow to learn of his death.”

Mr Ball played for Everton, Arsenal and Southampton during a glittering career, after which he went on to player-manage Blackpool, before managing Colchester United, Southampton, Portsmouth and Manchester City.

Salute to a true England great - Read EdBlog through the link on this page.

If you would like to pay your own tribute online to Mr Ball, post your comments in the space below.

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