Top 20 Footballing Alans

In honour of Alan Ball, a great footballer and thoroughly decent bloke, who died aged only 61 on the 24th April 2007...

1 Alan Ball

The news of Alan's tragic, premature death shocked English football. Alan was a truly great player. His greatest period during a club career with Blackpool, Everton, Arsenal and Southampton was on Merseyside, where he won the the championship in 1970. He was part of the famous midfield trio, with Kendall and Harvey, a genuine School of Science. His managerial career had its peaks and troughs but it says everything about the man that he was revered in both Southampton and Portsmouth. His finest moment, of course, was in 1966 when his skill, combined with an indefatigable spirit, dominated the midfield area of the World Cup Final. Playing on the right hand side he ran the formidable German full back, Schnellinger, in to the ground. With hindsight he was regarded as one of the first modern footballers, but he brought a passion to the game that was timeless. He was rewarded for his services to football with an MBE in 2000. Not long before his untimely death Sky took him to Wembley as part of the build up to the under 21 match that marked the opening of the new stadium. It was unusually touching to watch his wonderment at the new surroundings, yet with the knowledge that this same plot of land saw his, and indeed our, greatest triumph.

The original midfield dynamo. Alan Ball 1945-2007.

2 Alain Giresse

Legendary French midfielder who starred for Bordeaux between 1970 and 1986 and was part of the tremendous Platini-Tigana-Giresse-Fernandez midfield axis that won the 1984 European Championships. And his favourite Alain ? Prost or Delon ? You decide.

3 Alan Harper

The archetypal utility man, Harper, with his strange little tash, was employed in positions all over the field - full-back, centre-back, wideman, groundsman, centre-midfield, even makeshift striker. It could be argued that he was a bit rubbish at all of them, but hey, which Alan is wandering around town with a Championship and Cup Winners' Cup medal draped from his neck ?

4 Alan Partridge

Feted as the next Fred Dineage, East Anglia's number 1 sports correspondent reported on football from places as variable as Norwich and Ipswich. Alan was a model pro who got his big national break as sports anchor for the BBC's flagship news programme, The Day Today. His famous commentary from the 1994 World Cup ("S**t! He's got a foot like a traction engine") is among the most eloquent descriptions of football you're likely to hear. Alan later moved onto the world of light entertainment but for many he will always be the super smooth pro at grounds as diverse as Portman Road and Carrow Road.

5 Alan Biley

A legend at Cambridge Utd, the charismatic Rod Stewart lookalike, scored 75 goals there in the late 70's before moving to Derby County. However, things didn't work out for him at the Baseball Ground or with his next club, Everton. But a move to Portsmouth kick-started his career again, and he became a popular figure on the South coast, scoring 51 times in 101 games. He played a key part in the famous "Father Christmas Match" against Oxford Utd, 3 days before Christmas in 1985. With Pompey trailing 0:1 at Fratton Park, a fan invaded the pitch dressed as Santa Claus, whether or not this inspired their mullet-haired striker who knows, but Biley struck twice with identical style goals in injury time to give Pompey a famous victory. He left Pompey under a cloud though after being transferred to Brighton against the fans wishes by our number one Alan, Mr Ball.

6 Martin "Mad-Dog" Allen

Part of the footballing dynasty that is the Allen family. "Mad-Dog" made his name as a combative midfielder for QPR and West Ham in the 80's and 90's, the nickname arising at West Ham because, in the words of cousin Clive "Er, he is mad". He made the front pages at QPR following his famous disagreement with then manager Trevor Francis. Stuck in a hotel up in Newcastle with his wife back home expecting their first child, he jumped on the first flight back to London at the news that she'd gone into labour. Francis, furious that he'd dared to attend his son's birth, fined him and then transferred him. Now a manger, Mad-Dog retained his crazy reputation by swimming in various disease-infected city centre rivers during Brentford's FA Cup run back in 2005.

7 Alan McInally

A great big bear of a man, if ever a footballer looked liked an Alan it was McInally. He became a bit of a cult figure after surprising everyone with his move to Bayern Munich and doing rather well. He can now be found on Sky TV, working alongside the legendary Jeff Stelling, looking hard and pretending to be an authority on German football. The sort of Alan you wouldn't mind sharing a few pints with.

8 Alun Armstrong

Ok, so he only makes our list so that we can highlight another spelling of Alan, but what a spelling it is - a 'U' instead of an 'A' ! Great stuff from Alun's parents.

9 Alan Green

Portly Alan likes nothing better than to sink his chops into a big football match. A radio commentator of the old school (think Dan Maskell, John Arlott), Alan always lets his expert summariser explain the match, believing that someone with the build of a fork lift truck couldn't possibly understand what it's like to play football. Apparently, off air, Alan is quite opinionated.

10 Alan Osorio da Costa Silva

Our favourite named Brazilian (for more, we've got a decent list of un-Brazilian sounding footballers). The Porto star's father was a big Swansea City fan and named him after his hero, Alan Curtis. Allegedly.

11 Alan Brazil

Brazil was an Ipswich great from that fine team of Bobby Robson's at the start of the 1980s. With his huge frizzy hairdo he cut an unmistakeable figure on the pitch with a bustling style of play and fine goalscoring record. He went on to play for Spurs with some success, though he was dogged by injury. Later in his career he had less successful spells at Man Utd and Coventry. Alan never made a huge impact at national level, but played in an era when Scotland had unimaginable riches compared to their current resources. Brazil is now a successful radio presenter with Talksport and has recently penned his autobiography "There's an awful lot of Bubbly in Brazil". Apparently, he's not averse to the odd bevy.

12 Jean Alain Boumsoung

Still to be screened on national television, 'Jean-Alain' is actually a fictional character created by Beadle's About as part of the most elaborate hoax ever played on the general public. The footage of Beadle, disguised as a football agent, persuading Freddie Shepherd to fork out £8m for 'Jean-Alain' is said to be TV gold.

13 Alan Kennedy

Nicknamed 'Barney Rubble' by the Anfield Kop, the curly haired left-back had a great knack of saving his goals for cup finals. The winning goal that he crashed home against Real Madrid in the 1981 European Cup final was followed up 3 years later with the deciding penalty against Roma. Add to that goals in 2 League Cup finals and its not hard to see why this unsung Alan became a firm fans favourite. Would surely have played many times for England had it not been for one of those top footballing Kennys - Mr Sansom.

14 Alan Parry

Football Commentator who has worked for "the big 3" of the Beeb, ITV and Sky. A massive footy fan, he's a director of Wycombe Wanderers and a huge fan of Liverpool, something to be aware of next time he's commentating on an Everton or Man Utd game. Amongst his better quotes are "2-0 is a cricket score in Italy", "He's scored! Is there no end to the stoppage of this drama ?!" and the famous "The Liverpool players are passing the cup down the line like a new born baby. Although when they're back in the changing rooms they'll probably fill it with champagne. Something you should never do to a baby."

15 Alan Hansen

Along with Alan Shearer he makes up Match of the Day's famous "Team Alan". This wizard of football punditry was once a half-decent footballer so when he's dissecting another fabulous Liverpool attack or some terrible English defending the public should listen, because he knows what he's on about. Honest. Expect a possible DVD spin-off entitled "When Alan's Attack", with Hansen and Shearer launching a tirade of abuse at video clips of inept forwards and bumbling defenders.

16 Alan Shearer

See above.

17 Alan Birchenall

Blond mopped attacker from the 70's, Birchenall had a gifted left foot, which was referred to as "the claw". He was involved in 3 separate 100k moves in the early 70's and eventually settled at Leicester City, starring alongside the likes of Frank Worthington and Keith Weller in one of the Foxes most entertaining line-ups. Affectionately known as "Mr Leicester City" he's back with the club again working as the match host at their home games.

18 Alan Sugar

"You're fired!" Long before The Apprentice hit the nation's screens Alan Sugar hurled his familiar broadside to Terry Venables during his time as chairman at Tottenham. In 1991 the pair rode in to save the club from possible bankruptcy but within 2 years the relationship had soured. During a controversial spell at White Hart Lane he infamously ranted about foreign players or 'Carlos Kickaballs' and hired a string of rubbish managers before selling up in 2001. This allowed him to concentrate on selling electronic products that no one seems to own and shouting at people with no sense of self awareness on the television.

19 Alain "Reggie" Perrin

If David Baddiel and Rob Newman had been doing the Mary Whitehouse Experience in 2005 then their "History Today" sketch featuring the two old duffers would probably have ended up something like...

"You know that Alain Perrin, the Pompey manager ?"
"Yes. I am aware of him."
"That's you, that is. That's you trying to manage a football team."

20 Alan Devonshire

Alan Devonshire, or 'The Duchess' as he probably wasn't known, was an underrated Alan for West Ham in the 1980s. He was a clever midfielder who trademark was a jinking burst from midfield that relied on trickery rather than pace or power. He was part of the West Ham side of 1980 that won the cup despite being in the 2nd division. He was still around when John Lyall built his last team of real quality - the 1986 side that came close to winning the league and eventually finished third, the Hammers highest ever finish. He played 8 times for England but was never allowed to flourish in an era when so called 'luxury players' (a phrase you never hear these days), were treated with wariness by England managers. Devonshire is now manager of Hampton & Richmond Borough in the Isthmian League. Which sounds rather grand.