Player Head to Head: Alan Ball v David Beckham
The contest for the right side of midfield in England’s dream team comes down to a head to head between Alan Ball and David Beckham. Would you go for the youngest member of England’s World Cup winning side in 1966 or for the modern day icon of English football, who captained England in 10 World Cup matches?
But actually, this is not just a choice about football performance; it is also a contest between the two most annoying voices in the game; Beckham’s nasal banality against Ball’s persistently piercing squeakiness.
The key statistics are shown in the table.
|Ball v Beckham: Head to Head Report Card|
|Goals per 90 min||0||0.26|
|Overall win %||63%||46%|
|Games as captain||0||10|
Playing Time: Neither was an automatic starter in their first World Cup. Ball was left out of the second and third group games in 1966, but then played throughout the knockout stages. He made three starts and one substitute appearance in 1970. Beckham’s 1998 tournament was not a raging success. Having been omitted from the first match, he came on in a losing cause against Romania and played in the win over Colombia before his red card debacle in the round of 16 game against Argentina. For 2002 and 2006, Beckham was captain as England reached the quarter finals. Beckham is one of only 7 England players to have played more than 1,000 minutes of World Cup football. Ball’s 715 minutes puts him at number 24.
Goals: Ball did not score for England in a World Cup, whereas Beckham scored against Colombia in 1998, a penalty against Argentina in 2002 and the only goal against Ecuador in 2006; he seems to like playing South American teams! One goal per World Cup is not great for an attacking midfielder, especially as one was a penalty after Michael Owen went down rather easily, but there are only 4 players ahead him on England’s list (Lineker, Hurst, Charlton and Owen).
Winning: There is no escaping that this is what it is all about and Ball has a World Cup winner’s medal and Beckham does not. Furthermore, Ball won 5 of 8 matches played, as opposed to Beckham’s 6 from 13. When you also consider that half of Ball’s matches were knockout matches against tough opposition, and that 3 out of 4 of those were won, there is a clear edge in his favour.
Leadership: 10 matches as captain puts Beckham level with Billy Wright and Booby Moore at the top of the list of England World Cup captains. Ball did not captain England in a World Cup, but there is more to leadership than captaincy alone. Stepping up in the big knockout games is key, and Ball gets enormous credit for his role in England’s third goal in the 1966 final. With uncertainty whether the ball was over the line, Ball grabbed the initiative and got in the ear of Tofiq Bakhramov, the Azerbaijani linesman: “if you want my incredibly annoying squeaky voice out of your ear, you need to flag for a goal” – I paraphrase of course – and the rest is history.
Discipline: Neither Ball nor Beckham received a yellow in their World Cup careers, which is surprising; especially as Beckham played in an era where yellow cards have become more prevalent. He did, however, see red for his kick at Diego Simeone against Argentina in 1998.
Here is the end of term school report card, and it is a narrow win for David Beckham, although both players have proved to be significant assets in England’s World Cup history.
|Ball v Beckham: marks out of 10|
|Total out of 50||30||33|