Looking Back At: Gary Ball

Gary Ball

Date of birth: 15.12.59

Born: St. Austell, Cornwall

Height: 5ft 7in

Position: Left-winger

City appearances: League: 3   

Stephen Gary Ball, usually known by his middle name, was one of the comparatively few professional footballers produced by the county of Cornwall. His footballing career started as an apprentice with his nearest league club, Plymouth Argyle. Becoming a professional player at the age of 18 in December 1977 his only first-team appearance for the Argyle came as a substitute in a Division Three game against Sheffield Wednesday at the beginning of September 1979.

A month after his solitary appearance for Plymouth Gary Ball was allowed to leave on a free transfer to join Lincoln City with Colin Murphy in the throes of rebuilding his squad of players following relegation from Division Three. The City manager said that the player would provide first-team cover as a winger with only 18-year-old former apprentice David Burrows currently an option on the left. Although initially costing nothing there would be money due to Plymouth depending on Ball’s first-team appearances, plus further payment if he was sold to another club.

Initially confined to the reserves, Ball was included in a starting line-up made up of first-team players and youngsters for a friendly match against touring American side Tulsa Roughnecks, scoring a goal in City’s 8-2 win. After setting up one goal and scoring another in a reserve match he was then named on the subs’ bench for a visit to Peterborough. Following a disappointing 3-1 defeat at London Road Colin Murphy made some changes for the visit of Bournemouth in the next match which saw Gary Ball make his first-team debut on the left-wing as Glenn Cockerill was moved into midfield.

In a 1-1 draw achieved against spoiling tactics by the visiting side the youngster had what Echo reporter Maurice Burton described as “an excellent match” and hailed him as a “bright and exciting prospect”. Ball retained his place for a visit to Portsmouth but with a 4-0 defeat to the promotion favourites this didn’t go so well. Although said to have “worked tirelessly” in the game at Fratton Park Ball was then left out of the side for the FA Cup visit to Third Division Sheffield Wednesday and for a 3-3 home draw with Hartlepool United which saw new signing Derek Bell come into the side. Colin Murphy then continued to change the line-up around meaning a recall for Ball for the next match. However, a 1-0 defeat at Halifax saw him booked and substituted in the second half for what proved to be the last of his first-team appearances.

With more new signings such as George Shipley and Nolan Keeley arriving at the club Gary Ball then faded from the first-team picture and also failed to feature for the reserves on a regular basis although he did take part in a friendly match against a combined RAF team at Cranwell before being allowed to leave at the end of March with the possibility of going to play in Australia.

Gary Ball made a total of 4 appearances in the Football League.