Football struggling, says Ball

PLAYERS don't know how to behave, some of the fans don't, and the top division of English football has little to offer outside of the big clubs. So said Alan Ball yesterday.

PLAYERS don't know how to behave, some of the fans don't, and the top division of English football has little to offer outside of the big clubs. So said Alan Ball yesterday.

The former World Cup winner was in Ipswich as guest speaker at the annual Suffolk College civic service, and while lamenting the state of the game, also had some harsh words for his former club Southampton, who will be alongside Ipswich Town in the Championship next season.

Before addressing the assembled dignitaries, including former Town and England manager Sir Bobby Robson, Ball said: “Sky's coverage of football is fantastic, you can't argue with that, and perhaps the top four in the Premiership are worth watching and could be called genuinely good sides, but outside of them the division is very ordinary.

“It's a shame because when I played, there were many sides capable of winning the title, and nearly every team had three or four class players, but it's completely changed now. I would describe the Premier League as 'ok' but no better than that.”


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Ball was used to a much more physical era, but admitted even he was shocked when Newcastle team-mates Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer squared up to each other last season. “We had some battles, but not with our own team-mates,” he noted.

And in the same week that it was revealed Bowyer could end up in court due to his part in the fracas, Ball said the public face of football was not a pretty picture.

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“It (the Bowyer/Dyer fight) was a disgrace but that's the whole package you get with football these days, sadly. The players get too much money and power, there is too much tribalism in the stadiums and on top of that, too little loyalty left.

“The days of a one-club player are long gone and I doubt we'll ever see them again. It would take a dramatic change in behaviour to bring that about.

“I am just glad I played in a much better era. The game was certainly good to me.”

Currently in the doldrums are Ball's old team Southampton, who he played for and managed, and while the former Saint was saddened by the club's relegation, it didn't come as a shock.

“I wasn't surprised to see them relegated because they've got the worst collection of players there now that I can remember. The league table doesn't lie and they deserved to go down.

“The whole place down there is on a real low, there is incredible disappointment in the town, and the hard work starts here.

“Nobody should be fooled that it will be easy to come back either, because it won't. Harry Redknapp and whichever players he manages to attract to the club in the summer will have a tremendously hard task to get that team back into the Premiership.”

steve.mellen@eadt.co.uk

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