Harris pays tribute to much-missed friend

Barry Harris. Picture: Joe Pepler
Barry Harris. Picture: Joe Pepler

BARRY HARRIS has the telegram hanging on the wall at his Southsea home.

Sent on the occasion of his 1998 marriage to wife Sue, it bore Alan Ball’s name and contained his best wishes.

Pompey’s long-serving assistant kitman worked closely with the late Ball during his two spells as manager.

The matter that today should have been the World Cup winner’s 70th birthday has not escaped Harris’ attention.

Nor the fact Paul Cook would be appointed on the very same day.

And he will be raising a glass in honour of one of the most popular managers to have sat in the Blues hot seat, who passed away eight years ago.

He said: ‘At Fratton Park, sometimes at the end of the season when kids have been released I tell them the tale of the midfielder let go at the age of 18 by Bolton and Wolves.

‘By 21 he was a World Cup winner – and his name was Alan Ball.

‘Bally was the best player against Germany, he used to always talk about that as well! Rightly so, he was proud.

‘Once, following a bad defeat at Pompey, he told me he was going to cheer himself up by watching a video of that final!

‘He was a lovely man, honest, opinionated, genuine and would not talk behind someone’s back. Bally was always straight.

‘He didn’t suffer fools gladly, mind. If you were not doing your job properly he would tell you. You look at that team of scallywags who were promoted in 1986-87, there was something always going on with that lot.

‘But he got the best out of what was a team of good players.

‘Bally’s coaching was fantastic, although maybe he lacked a little bit in man-management.

‘I did notice he was a lot calmer when he came back to us under Milan Mandaric, he was more experienced and handled players better.

‘Unfortunately that spell didn’t work out and Milan was impatient.

‘Bally did much more good than bad during his times at Fratton Park, though, and people always wanted to listen to his stories. It was a pleasure to be in his company.

‘I, for one, will today raise a glass in his memory.’

Ball managed Pompey for 320 matches over his two spells.

He died suddenly aged 61 in April 2007, with the world of football turning out at Winchester Cathedral for the funeral, Harris among them.