Born: Farnworth, 12th May 1945
2nd July 1995 - 26th August 1996
When Alan Ball was appointed City manager supporters were disappointed. Because of Francis Lee’s own reputation as an international player and hero they felt he would be able to bring a major managerial figure to the Club. Rumours of the greatest managers of the period, including George Graham and Franz Beckenbauer, circulated before Ball arrived.
Fans recognised that Ball had been a talented player who achieved success as a member of the 1966 World Cup winning team, and as a League Championship medal winner with Everton, but they also knew that his managerial record was not particularly inspiring. He managed Portsmouth to promotion in 1987 but they were relegated the following season. He had also endured difficult periods at Stoke City (he was dismissed in February 1991 and they ended that season in their lowest ever position - 14th in Division Three), Exeter, and Blackpool (he was dismissed after seven months after sending them hurtling towards relegation to the Fourth Division for the first time in history).
Ball’s first season at City ended in relegation from the Premier League. As Peter Swales’ time as Chairman was marked by the number of managers he had appointed, Francis Lee was keen to ensure he at least gave his appointment time and support. That was refreshing, however Ball was simply not up to the task and the 1996-7 season commenced with supporters feeling deflated. Depressing performances and poor results brought protests from the fans. One memorable game at Stoke made the headlines because both sets of fans were chanting anti-Ball songs. It was a strange situation, but Stoke had also suffered when Ball was their leader. The game ended in a 2-1 defeat with Ball claiming: “In terms of points we didn’t come away with anything, but as the manager I got something out of the match.”
Before the next game Ball resigned, although his autobiography, Playing Extra Time, provides a different story to that announced at the time: “Franny was there with secretary Bernard Halford and came straight to the point, as he always would, ‘Look, mate, I’ve got to tell you that it can’t go on.’ I listened and some of the fight drained out of me as I told him, fine. By this time I had not really had enough but I had taken so much on my shoulders; I fielded so much flak. I had upset so many players; I had done so much of the board’s dirty work that I was in danger of being bowed by worry.”
All history and statistical material has been produced based on the research and writing of Manchester football historian Gary James (www.facebook.com/GaryJames4). It is maintained by Ric Turner & Gary James. All text remains the copyright of the original contributors.
Gary's book, Manchester - the City Years: Tracing the Story of Manchester City from the 1860s to the Modern Day, is available to order on Amazon.