Old Firm drama, writing a book and raising £130k - Ball's journey to Town

Ipswich Town have signed Dominic Ball on a two-year deal. The midfielder has previously played for Rangers and QPR

Ipswich Town have signed Dominic Ball on a two-year deal. The midfielder has previously played for Rangers and QPR - Credit: ITFC

Ipswich Town have made Dominic Ball their second summer signing. Mark Heath profiles him....

STORY SO FAR

Ball was born in August 1995 in Welwyn Garden City.

He originally started out as a young player at Watford before joining Spurs, where he graduated from their youth set-up and worked with Town boss Kieran McKenna.

Of his time there, he said: "It was the best place for me to learn at the time. The quality of the coaching and the facilities at the club was superb.

Dominic Ball talks to the Ipswich Town club media

Dominic Ball talks to the Ipswich Town club media - Credit: ITFC

“You were always challenged to be better at Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino then came in and brought me into the first-team training sessions for a while which showed me just how hard the standard was at elite Premier League level.

“I worked as hard as I could to make it but I just was not ready for first-team football at Spurs. That is all part of the journey and led to me going out on loan.”

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He saw his first senior football league action when Spurs duly loaned him to Cambridge United in January 2015. He made his debut in a 1-1 home draw with Dagenham & Redbridge and finished the season having played 11 games, mostly at right-back, and contributed two assists.

But Ball really started to make his name the following season, when he was loaned to Scottish giants Rangers.

He played 30 games, 24 of which were starts, and helped lead Rangers to the Scottish Championship and back to the Premiership after four years in the wilderness.

He was also part of the side which famously beat old rivals Celtic - who were on their way to another Premiership title - on penalties in the Scottish Cup semi-final that year.

Talking to the Daily Record, he said: That year at Rangers was the best of my career. And when I think about the Scottish Cup semi-final that was one of the best days of my life.

"When I first heard I was going up to Scotland on loan I was apprehensive and didn’t know what I was getting into. Even though I knew about Rangers, I had absolutely no idea about the size and scale of it.

“As I tell anyone down here – it’s a lifestyle for people. It’s Rangers or Celtic and to those supporters that’s the most important thing in the world.

“It’s amazing. And that was just in the Championship!

"Nothing I’ve done in football can match the semi final against Celtic. The confidence we had as a team, standing in the tunnel before kick off, even though we were still a Championship team and Celtic were going to win another title, we knew we were going to win.

“It sounds crazy to say that but that’s just the belief we had in each other. I was looking to the players all around me in light blue shirts and we knew our jobs.

“That’s still the biggest game of my career. I was standing in the tunnel nervous but thinking ‘this opportunity doesn’t come around a lot, to play in one of the biggest derbies in the world, go and enjoy it’.

“Ibrox gave me goosebumps. But Hampden that day was something else with the fireworks on top of the 50-50 split.”

After his time in Scotland, Ball signed for Rotherham in August 2016. But he struggled to make a breakthrough there, and was loaned out to Peterborough and Aberdeen (twice), before heading for QPR in July 2019.

And he played 100 games for Rangers, 74 of which were starts, scoring three goals, before departing this summer.

Hull City's Greg Docherty (right) and Queens Park Rangers' Dominic Ball battle for the ball during t

Dominic Ball, left, played 100 games for QPR, scoring three goals - Credit: PA

In a message to fans, he said: "I want to say a massive thank you to everyone at QPR for the last 3 years!

"I believe Saturday's game was my 100th appearance for the club and I’ve enjoyed every single one! The support you’ve shown me has been amazing and I've loved pulling on the QPR shirt!

"I’ve made some great friends at the club and built relationships with some really great people around the club!

"I want to wish the club and everyone involved all the very best in the future! QPR will always be a special place for me but now it is time for a new challenge! Thank you."

Internationally, Ball was capped by Northern Ireland up to U21 level. He switched allegiances to England in 2013, and has represented them at U20 level.

PUBLISHED AUTHOR AND CHARITY WORK

Away from the pitch, Ball penned a book - From Winning Teams to Broken Dreams - about the battle for he and five of his friends to make it as professional footballers. 

Released earlier this year, it's raising money for Sarcoma UK - a bone and soft tissue cancer charity - in memory of his best friend and former team-mate Spencer McCall, who died of cancer in July 2021.  

"Before Covid, my best friend was diagnosed with Sarcoma, which is a rare form of cancer," Ball explained.

"He actually got rid of it, which was the best news of my life, but unfortunately it came back in his lungs, quite aggressively, about six months later.

"From then on we started raising money for treatment for him, outside of the UK, because they couldn't offer him anything here.

"I think we raised £130,000, and I had a lot of help from everyone I've been involved in football with, which was brilliant.

"It's the same with the book, all the funds are going to Sarcoma UK. It's so important to me."

West Bromwich Albion's Alex Mowatt (left) and Queens Park Rangers' Dominic Ball battle for the ball

Ball in action for QPR - Credit: PA

Of the book, he added: "It's the story of me and five of my best friends, who all met through football and are still very close now.

"It's our journey from when we first started playing to where we are now. It's for young players, going through academies and for boys who have actually been through academies - there's a lot of relevant information in there and advice.

"It's for parents too, with boys and girls who are going through academies, and it's for those who have not experienced it.

"I wanted to start writing because as footballers we have quite a lot of spare time. We could be on loan somewhere, on our own, or on away trips  - I've always had a bit of spare time, which I wanted to do something positive with.

Dominic Ball sporting a face mask while playing for Rotherham

Dominic Ball sporting a face mask while playing for Rotherham - Credit: PA

"So I started writing initially five or six years ago, and it kept going. It got to the stage where I said 'this is actually a book now'.

"There's two of us who are still playing in the league, two who have given it up completely and Spencer, who unfortunately isn't with us any more.

"But out of all of us, he loved football the most - which is why I'm so proud to get this out there, because I know he would have loved it."

Ball has also got a business studies degree, having studied part-time while playing football.

Lee Evans has been in impressive form since Sam Morsy took the Ipswich Town captaincy

Sam Morsy, left, and Lee Evans are Town's projected midfield starting duo - Credit: Steve Waller

WHERE HE FITS

Town's two starting midfielders next season, as it stands, figure to be captain Sam Morsy and Lee Evans.

Ball, you'd imagine, has been brought in to challenge that duo. Given he's a more defensive minded midfielder, you'd think Evans is the one most under threat.

Morsy, who got forward more than ever under McKenna, needs a partner who's content to let him do that and cover any gaps which may result. Ball, who stands 6ft 2ins tall, would seem to fit that mould, plus offer utility cover across right-back and centre-back if required.

Tyreeq Bakinson applauds fans after the final whistle.

Town have the option to sign Tyreeq Bakinson this summer - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

What Ball's signing means for Tyreeq Bakinson, whom Town have the option to buy after his relatively impressive loan from Bristol City last season, is unclear.

That may hinge on what they decide to do with Rekeem Harper, another in the midfield mix.

Idriz El Mizouni and Cameron Humphreys are also in that discussion, though Humphreys can play further forward.