Having just received the Ronny Goodlass inspired DVD "Alan Ball Remembered" as a present, I am left wondering just who was, the best Everton player I have had the privilege of watching live.

From 1960 until the present day, I have attended Goodison Park, then as a 12-year-old; now a 62-year-old. I have had some of the best times of my life, and seen some of the finest footballers in the world in this unique old stadium.

Two particular players stand out like Blue Beacons in my memories: Alex Young and Alan Ball both blessed with the gift of being able to literally take your breath away with sublime skill and artistry.

My two younger Blue brothers recently put me on the spot and demanded an answer: Who was your best Everton player ever? Alex Young had just edged it for me but, after watching this latest DVD, I really can’t separate them.

Young definitely edges it in dribbling skills, heading ability, and finishing... but Ball was an outstanding team player, great passing and awareness skills, also a good finisher but not as clinical as Young.

I still get a shiver down my spine when I visualise Alex Young leaping like a salmon and scoring that headed goal against Spurs; I don’t know whether my memory is playing tricks on me but he seemed to be standing on the line about 5 yards from goal when he scored.

He won both the League and FA Cup at Everton scoring 22 goals in the 1963 Championship-winning side, but he was much, much more than a goalscorer, "The Golden Vision" had the touch of an angel. He wasn’t the type of grafter David Moyes demanded, but who wants to remember a grafter? The crowd absolutely adored him. [Harry Catterick, the then Everton manager was physically assaulted at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road for daring to drop him in favour of a very raw Joe Royle. This is a myth Editor]

Young "scored" one of the best ever disallowed goals in history in the 1966 Cup Final against Sheffield Wednesday, a perfectly good goal often forgotten in the euphoria of the win. He suffered with blistered feet, very similar to the injuries that affect ballerinas, appropriate really because he was blessed with the same grace and the poise.

The shivers down my spine reappear when I think about Alan Ball, the trademark white boots, the mop of ginger hair, the winning goal he scored against Liverpool in the 1967 FA Cup, when a combined crowd of over 100,000 fans packed both Goodison Park and Anfield where the game was broadcast simultaneously on a big screen, and the two goals he scored in his first ever derby game... it just goes on and on.

He was part of the best midfield I’ve ever seen: Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey and Alan Ball complemented each other perfectly, but Bally was the star; he made things happen, he frightened players, he never stopped running, cajoling and encouraging his teammates non-stop. I can’t remember the team we played at Goodison, but his marker that day stuck that close to him, when Bally mockingly walked off the pitch to go down the tunnel during play, he followed him! Bally was also the first player I ever saw sit on the ball during open play when shielding the ball against a defender near the touchline.

I remember first hearing Alan Ball being interviewed on the telly, after we bought him from Blackpool for 110,000 (daylight robbery, by the way). If you thought Ashley from Coronation Street had a squeaky voice, then you’ve heard nothing till you heard Bally. On the subject of squeaky voices, I remember going to see Everton away at Blackpool in the 60s and standing next to Brian London, the former British Heavyweight boxing champion. Being keen boxing fans, we got into conversation with him and I remember struggling to control my laughter when he started talking like Orville the Duck! 6 ft 2 ins and 15 stone boxing champion you don’t laugh at them, do you?

But back to Alan Ball and Alex Young it frightens me to think what they would be worth today... Bally, an aggressive, inspirational captain and creative goalscoring Number 8; Alex Young, magnificent dribbling and heading qualities and guaranteed double-figure goals every season... Priceless both of them! I just feel privileged and lucky that they both provided me with memories I will remember for the rest of my life.

"Who’s the Greatest of them All? Little Curly Alan Ball"

Mmmm.... or was it Alex Young?

Sorry, Paul & Ste I just can’t separate them.

Great video, by the way; ex-Everton player Ronny Goodlass is another True Blue and should be congratulated on his work for helping to deliver football coaching on Merseyside for vulnerable young people.

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Reader Comments (49)

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Paul Andrews
1 Posted 04/12/2013 at 07:10:28
Best to be grateful we had both of them
Derek Thomas
2 Posted 04/12/2013 at 07:10:42
Ball; just, for the effect he had on those around him. Young had better skills; just, but was the first to admit he could blow hot and cold.

It ain't what you do, it's the way you do it. When Ball arrived he took a Game, a Season, a whole Club, by the scruff of the and dragged it kicking and screaming to a League Championship ( with a little help from Harry and the rest of the lads...oh and us fans as well )

2nd only to Dixie

David Ellis
3 Posted 04/12/2013 at 09:01:18
Goodlass was n't a bad player himself. I only ever saw Ball live playing for Arsenal against us around 1973/4. A little past his prime by then.

John Keating
4 Posted 04/12/2013 at 09:53:34
if put on the spot ...........Young - just !
Richard Tarleton
5 Posted 04/12/2013 at 10:14:31
Young was fantastic, but I'll give you three I rate more highly from my sixty years of watching Everton. One was Bobby Collins, who began the transformation that led to Young and Vernon, never have I seen a single player have such an effect on a team as he did. Secondly, Roy Vernon, not as eye-catching as Young, but the best Everton striker I've seen and he was great in the really big games, which Young wasn't and thirdly , Colin Harvey, Ball ran everywhere and inspired, but Harvey could make fifty yard passes look easy and his tackling was deadly.
Dick Fearon
6 Posted 04/12/2013 at 09:35:31
Ball or Young what a mouth watering choice, Ball a non stop box to box action man long before that descriptive was thought of. Fearless, hard tackling and never taking a backward step.
Even among our own fans he had critics who jumped on his occasional misdirected pass.
For god knows what reason they ignored the sheer volume of Alan's good passing and mountains of effort.
I put it down to the tall poppy syndrome except that Alan was pint sized.
Alex was of and entirely different mould with an different kind of role. Though not shirking the rough and tumble stuff he did not have anything like Alans work rate and contribution to the teams success.
Alex also had his homegrown critics who wanted to see a more robust attitude. In a way they preferred a hard working cart horse instead of a potential derby winner.
From a football point of view I consider it to be my blessed good fortune to have seen their entire Everton career.
In fact, I saw Alan playing for Blackpool in a team coached by his dad. By sheer co-incidence it was that very game where Cattericks accidental trip on a wet pavement resulted in a media beat up about so called Everton thugs.
In his pre Everton days a teen age Ball was adored by seasiders supporters who named him their little general.
Such was the brilliant yet very distinct individual talents of Alan and Alex I find it impossible to place one ahead of the other and it would be grossly unfair to either of them should I attempt to do so.
At the same time I most dearly wish my 3 evertonian sons, 4 grandsons and 5 gt grandsons could experience the same tingling exquisite delight of seeing Alex Young elevate our game to a level not seen before or since.
Brian Harrison
7 Posted 04/12/2013 at 10:28:23
I cant split the best between Young and Ball, both very different players and for our younger fans who didn't see these guys they missed for me the best 2 players to wear a blue shirt in the last 60 years. Young just oozed class he seemed to float across the grass he had great dribbling skills as well as being able to leap into the air and hang there, although not a big guy he could beat most centre halves (sorry centre backs now) in the air. Were Ball again a great footballer was like the Duracell rabbit he was non stop from beginning to end, and woe betide anyone who wasn't giving 100%.

Another poster mentions Bobby Collins another terrific player who came from Celtic, Bobby was about 5ft 5ins but what a player for me he was as good a passer of the ball as Johnny Haynes and he was considered the best of his generation. Bobby was sold to Leeds and the following season was voted PFA footballer of the year so that tells you what a good player he was.

Dick Fearon
8 Posted 04/12/2013 at 11:00:30
I was at Maine Rd to see our game versus City when wee Bobby was introduced to the crowd.
The absence of TV in those days meant that until scots players came south of the border few English fans knew what they looked like.
I remember my mate saying, ' jeez that Everton mascot is a chunky kid'
We won the game 3-1 with Bobby playing a starring role.
Trevor Lynes
9 Posted 04/12/2013 at 12:20:54
I agree with Mr Tarleton in almost every respect. Young was an artist whom I liken to Tostao, the great Brazilian. Young loved playing against the London clubs but he never had a great derby match and they were and still are, vitally important. He did not enjoy physical games and much preferred playing against Spurs and West Ham.

Collins and Vernon both thrived on derby matches and always competed. Vernon was our version of Rush. He was a fantastic goalscorer and I never saw him miss a penalty. He was pacey and waspish.

Catterick let Collins go miles before he should've as Collins became the best signing Leeds Utd ever made. Probably Catt fell out with Collins as he was an abrasive person with fire in his belly. Collins was a much better long passer than anyone I ever saw at the club and he had a nasty streak which likened him to Souness. The nearest I saw to Ball as a player was Tony Kay.

He had everything and it was a great shame when he got banned as he ruined a fantastic career. If I picked a best ever EFC side it would contain all the players mentioned. Young needed Vernon and Collins and each brought the best out of each other. Each had their admirers and as far as I am concerned they were equals in their respective abilities.

Christine Foster
10 Posted 04/12/2013 at 13:12:40
For sheer heights of football brilliance it would have to be Alex Young. The ability to raise your heart with his feet, well what can you say? I was some 10 yards away from him as an inter player tore the shirt of his back in sheer frustration. Alex just laughed at him.

Bally inspired you to believe, he drove himself and the team on and on. He single handedly won games and never hid. They could never have played together, brilliant in their own ways.

The greatest inspiration for the team, Alan Ball
The greatest inspiration to the fans, Alex Young

Daniel Starkey
11 Posted 04/12/2013 at 14:22:26
Looking back on those days I always thought Roy Vernon was a better player than Young but bally was better than both of them.
Graham Reed
12 Posted 04/12/2013 at 14:04:55
I think that Colin Harvey was a cross between the two of them. Alex Young's strengths were his style and immaculate ball skills, his weaknesses the lack of consistency and workrate. Alan Ball's strengths were his commitment and astonishing workrate and consistency. Of course these are simplifications, Ball had a complete range of football skills and Young could be as tenacious as anybody (see his tackling back in the ManUtd game at the start of the 67-8 season).

Harvey had the superb technique and style of Young and the workrate and consistency of Ball. For two seasons we were lucky enough to have all three of them play together (66-7 and 67-8). Of course Ball and Young were far ahead of Harvey in that not unimportant matter of scoring goals and also in heading ability.

Norman Merrill
13 Posted 04/12/2013 at 14:44:02
I would not dream of deciding who was the better player.
All I would add is that like many thousands of Evertonians, I was privileged to have seen them both grace Goodison park, & wear the BLUE shirt with pride. COYB.
Bill Griffiths
14 Posted 04/12/2013 at 14:53:18
Young was at the end of his career when I started attending matches but, as far as I am concerned, Alan Ball is not only the best/greatest player to have played for Everton but is one of the if not the greatest footballers ever to set foot on a football pitch. He had everything including a desire to win the equal of anyone.

Glad to see others on here mentioning Colin Harvey who, in my opinion, was as skilled as any other footballer who has played for the Blues. I seem to recall that someone (can't remember where) referred to him as the White Pele. Has anyone else seen or heard of this and if so where was it?

Tony McNulty
15 Posted 04/12/2013 at 15:12:58
I thought both were superb (although I was only knee high to a grasshopper when Alex Young was on the scene).

Two comments:

(1) I think I am correct in saying that Young had trouble with blisters on his feet when Winter arrived with its hard pitches, and he did not always play. Bally was rarely injured.
(2) Young’s Everton career was slightly blighted when he lost his place (I think to Fred Pickering??) and was subsequently pushed out onto the right wing. No-one would ever have challenged Bally’s place in the side.

I would be interested to hear others’ memories and views relating to the above two comments.

Mike Goodwin
16 Posted 04/12/2013 at 15:02:56
In no particular order, as they say, Young, Vernon, Ball and Collins were the best players I've seen play for Everton, although possibly Tony Kay may have joined them if he had played more.

In my opinion, Alex Young, at his best, was unmatched for pure skill, and could scale heights that the others could not attain, so for that reason he is my Number 1.

I don't know if it's an age thing, but all these players are from 40 years or more ago. In my time, Dave Hickson and Alex Young were by far the greatest heroes for the fans, and I don't think anyone has come close to the level of adulation both those players inspired, for different reasons.

Brent Stephens
17 Posted 04/12/2013 at 15:22:29
Tony, as I remember it Alex's blister problem was at the start of a season, hard grounds after summer and a lay-off. Might be wrong though.

From Young to Pickering - thoroughbred to carthorse!

Dave Lynch
18 Posted 04/12/2013 at 15:22:07
The one with the curly hair was he best.
Brent Stephens
19 Posted 04/12/2013 at 15:25:36
Bill #324 "I seem to recall that someone (can't remember where) referred to him as the White Pele."

I don't remember that. Given the colour of his hair, could it have been "the orange peel" (sic)?

Paul Andrews
20 Posted 04/12/2013 at 15:31:30

Colin Harvey

Peter Mills
21 Posted 04/12/2013 at 15:29:20
Bill#324, I seem to remember a banner in the ground after Colin was sold to Sheffield Wednesday which read something along the lines of "£60,000, an insult to The White Pele".
Eric Myles
22 Posted 04/12/2013 at 15:16:50
I think you can only judge the two properly if you've seen them play in the flesh given the lack of footage and poor quality of recording back in the old days.

Undoubtedly the two of them, like Dixie and other before and after him, were magnificent players of their era and should be held in equally high esteem as greats of the Club.

Of the 2 I saw Bally in the flesh, and Alex probably only once on the telly in the 1966 cup fina,l so my fondest memories are of Bally but I've no doubt that from the many tributes paid to Alex they were of the same character and skill and equally deserving of greatness.

Brent Stephens
23 Posted 04/12/2013 at 15:37:16
Paul - Ah! Reading and writing too quickly!
Paul Andrews
24 Posted 04/12/2013 at 15:42:31

You should learn to calm yourself then :-)

Brent Stephens
25 Posted 04/12/2013 at 15:57:20
Paul, I'm all fired up for tonight's match! I'm racing through all posts from overnight and this morning like there's no tomorrow, so I can savour the posts specific to tonight's game.
Paul Johnson
26 Posted 04/12/2013 at 15:59:44
I am 47 and can vaguely remember watching Ball in a night game at Goodison, think it was Spurs. So I have to go by my dad's memories. he was an ardent Young fan and becomes all emotional when he remembers the Golden Vision. My youngest boy Alex has the privilege of being named after him.

Another player he speaks highly of and believes would have gone on to be the finest to wear the Royal Blue is Tony Kay. As he says 10 stone soaking wet but could tackle a house. I met him at a dinner in Crosby and he is a gentlemen.

The best club in the world with a great history.

Mike McLean
27 Posted 04/12/2013 at 16:11:23
Four questions:

1) How often did Alex turn it on AWAY from home?
2) How many did he score against Liverpool?
3) What was his injury record like?
4) How often did he ignore better placed team mates?

Answer those four questions honestly and you don't have to bother answering the OP's question at all.

Mike McLean
28 Posted 04/12/2013 at 16:24:13
"Young definitely edges it in dribbling skills, heading ability, and finishing"

In 66-67 (Ball's first season), Young scored 12 goals. Bally scored 15 from midfield. He also outscored him in 67-68.

Paul Andrews
29 Posted 04/12/2013 at 16:29:52

That was a poor attempt at sarcasm from me.
I replied to your post without reading the ones above.
Apologies for a dopey post.

3 points will get us calmed down :-)

Brent Stephens
30 Posted 04/12/2013 at 16:42:06
Paul, 3 points it is, then! But I doubt it would calm me down! TW would be buzzing!
John Pickles
31 Posted 04/12/2013 at 16:30:35
What a shame for younger Blues that they are not likely to see players of that quality in their prime play for Everton in the foreseeable future. Any really good talents nowadays are either sold or will return from their loan before they reach their peak.
Richard Tarleton
32 Posted 04/12/2013 at 17:11:15
Alex Young wasn't the best as I said earlier, but he had star quality in spades. No player over the past sixty years has had more of the affection of the crowd , or a better rapport with the fans. He was special and when you watch "The Golden Vision" he comes across as a genuinely pleasant man. In my everton heaven it's always 1963, I'm seventeen and we're in our "spec" in the old paddock and Young and Vernon are in their pomp. Vernon rapier sharp and a truly great finisher with more than a touch of the devil about his play and Young gliding past players with the faintest shimmy. Heaven.
John Keating
33 Posted 04/12/2013 at 17:06:32
Mike 357
as they say there are statistics and there are statistics.
I saw both players throughout their Everton careers.
One difference that I would like to mention is the fact that we really didn't appreciate what we lost until we sold Ball. Yes we all loved him when he was here but the "cult idolisation" really happened after he left.
With Young not only was he loved but he was "hero worshiped" and idolised during his time at Goodison.
Richard Tarleton
34 Posted 04/12/2013 at 17:21:38
P.S. there were moments on Saturday when I purred at the sumptuous play and thought it was the besti 'd seen in thirty years at Goodison, not quite 1963, or 70 but getting there.
Graham Reed
35 Posted 04/12/2013 at 17:30:03
Tony (332) Re Pickering and Young, yes Young initially lost his place when Pickering arrived, but for most of 64-5 and 65-6 they played together in the fashion of the time as a dual spearhead. Pickering was the no-nonsense big centre-forward and Young the more mobile and skilful inside-forward where I think he was just as much at home as at No.9. It was when Ball and Royle arrived on the scene that Catterick moved Young to the right wing where he had to compete with Jimmy Husband.
Ray Atherton
36 Posted 04/12/2013 at 17:14:50
Bill 324
I remember the great George Best said Colin Harvey was his favourite player.
I loved Alex, Bally, Collins and Roy Vernon but my own hero was Jimmy Gabriel.
Mike McLean
37 Posted 04/12/2013 at 17:32:25
John @ 378 - Yes, I'd agree Young was idolised / hero worshipped while he was there. I don't agree that Bally wasn't ... from his first derby onwards.

I genuinely don't think there's a comparison to be made on any level.

Statistics may not be able to tell the full story but, for me, they provide a surer guide to what happened than our star struck memories.

Mike McLean
38 Posted 04/12/2013 at 17:58:51
Richard @ 380: I agree.

As to the original question, personal recollections & opinions apart, we were obviously very fortunate to have them both.

Mike McLean
39 Posted 04/12/2013 at 18:03:10
Graham @ 382: In 65-66 when he played with Fred in a twosome, Alex scored 9 goals in all competitions.

Again, I agree that stats don't tell the whole story but there's been a myth-building exercise about the guy which he himself sought to debunk.

Readers might recall his comments about deafness being the reason he didn't seek out his team mates; how blisters spoiled his time at Goodison and how we never saw the best of him here. He was also pretty modest in his "Golden Vision" interview as I recall. Nice guy; legend; terrific dribbler BUT nothing like as effective or inspirational as Bally IMHO.

Ray Roche
40 Posted 04/12/2013 at 17:52:36
Having watched them both throughout their entire Everton careers, in my opinion, Young just shades it. If both were playing in todays game Young, with the referees protection that current players enjoy, would be an even better player than he was then. Artists such as him were often battered by thuggish defenders, as anyone who remembers the McKay assault on Husband will surely agree, yet despite this Young was as graceful an athlete as I've ever seen. I can't imagine any of his peers being honoured with a TV play such as the Golden Vision to celebrate the love that his fans had for him.
Mike McLean @ 363

Interestingly, Mike, if you take their whole career at Everton, instead of just the period after Ball joined when Alex Young's star was inevitably beginning to fade and which consequently gives a false reading, Ball scored a total of 78 goals in 250 games whereas Young hit 89 goals in 272 games. Very little to separate them.

I was absolutely gutted when Catterick sold Ball and mourned his leaving us as much as anyone, but, for me, Young was the greatest ever.

Tony Kelly
41 Posted 04/12/2013 at 18:23:21
I haven't posted Toffeweb for a while, but to compare Young with Alan Ball is like comparing Brett Angell to Lukaku, Alan Ball is the greatest Everton player in living memory. I had the pleasure of seeing all of our great players from the fifties until the present day, my all time hero was Royston Vernon who was a wonderful footballer, also Bobby Collins was brilliant. I'm not saying that Alex wasn't a great player but people tend to look at his Everton career with rose tinted specs. I think the reason he was given God like status by Blues fans was he wasn't your typical centre forward.

When Alex signed for the Blues every side had a big bad centre forward and Alex was a subtle footballer. I have spoken to a number of Everton players who played with both players and each and everyone of them has said that Bally was the greatest player they have played with.

John Morrisey once told me sometimes when you went out to play you didn't feel like playing and you would be sluggish and disinterested, but he said Bally would sus you out and do a few one two's with you then you would get your game going again. Like I said if you ask any player who was the best they would tell you "Who's the greatest of them all, little curly Alan Ball"
Ray Roche
42 Posted 04/12/2013 at 19:39:08
Tony Kelly, likening Alex Young to Brett Angel ? Even if you are considering Ball to be THAT much better than Young.You should be ashamed of yourself.
Steve Barr
43 Posted 05/12/2013 at 01:55:06
Didn't see Alex Young play live but did see Bally play many times.

At the time Harvey was actually my favourite player, even ahead of Bally.

Someone asked in an earlier post where Harvey acquired his "White Pele" nickname.

Don't know for sure but there have been a number of players who have been given the 'White Pele' tag over the years, Tostao and Zico, for example, pretty obvious why of course.

As for Harvey, he was part of the famous Everton midfield we all know as 'the Holy Trinity' and although the comparison with Pele wasn't that obvious (Pele was a forward and Harvey was a midfielder) it was his class, composure, creativity, skill and elegance on the ball that earned him that accolade from the Goodison faithful.

Unbelieveable that he only got one cap for England..from Joe Mercer I believe.

Notwithstanding, with hindsight, Bally has to be the best.

Harold Matthews
44 Posted 05/12/2013 at 05:03:09
This is not for me. Comparing one legend to another just doesn't seem right.
Joe Bibb
45 Posted 05/12/2013 at 10:56:44
Alex Young was the best player, Bally was the best motivator. But all the players from the '60s were excellent: Roy Vernon, Alex Scott, Ray Wilson... It was a time when everything just clicked and Harry Catterick had money to spend and then brought on the youth.

It was a Golden Era and I loved every minute of it.

Mark Rimmer
46 Posted 05/12/2013 at 12:03:08
"I was running back to the centre circle after I scored the second goal against Liverpool and pure elation welled up inside me. I remember thinking: 'I just love this place I want this place forever.' "

Alan Ball, August 1966

Unfortunately my age means I missed witnessing them both play live, but this is the reason I'd go for Bally.

Ken Rushton
48 Posted 06/12/2013 at 14:22:36
Bally my all time favourite.Man of the match in the 66 worlld cup final
then signed by us.The golden vision was unbeleivable at Goodison
but often struggled a bit in comparison away.Bally maintained his level home and away the English Billy Bremner but better.
Paul Joy
49 Posted 06/12/2013 at 21:04:47
No doubt in my mind - Bally
He had the best one touch passing I have ever seen - usually short range but always gave his team mates extra time and space.
Shed tears when we sold him.
Eric Holland
50 Posted 06/12/2013 at 21:22:54
Like some before me, Harvey could control a game and had everything, Ball was immense his work rate and skill second to none. to young to remember Alex but did watch him play, so my dad told me.

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