David Mitchell caught up with Fleetwood Town striker David Ball this week after the attacker made his 200th appearance for the club last week against Bury...
Cast your eye down the team sheet for Fleetwood Town’s first game in the Football League and you will find a great survivor in amongst those who have moved on from Highbury or taken up coaching. David Ball reached his 200th game for Fleetwood at Bury last weekend. The match against Torquay on 18th August 2012 marked his league debut for Town. Alongside him in attack were Jon Parkin and Andy Mangan. Behind him were two others who are now back-room staff at the club, Youl Mawene and Barry Nicholson.
"I came in late during pre-season. I remember it was very exciting times for the club and we actually started with Nottingham Forest at home in the Capital One Cup five days before Torquay. That team is now spread far and wide. Five years is a long time in football."
As he passes this notable milestone, Ball has another in his sights. He currently stands on 47 goals and would love to complete the half century in Fleetwood’s run-in at the end of their most successful of seasons. Fleetwood Town has been a big part of David Ball’s footballing life and he is genuinely delighted to have played so many games.
"I could have got there earlier but had injuries at bad times. However, now I have it is very special because this club is close to me. When I look back after my career has ended I will see it as a brilliant part of my life. I have met some wonderful people here. I’m glad that I can give so much to the club, the fans and the Chairman."
There have been other milestones of note - the first goalscorer in League One, first to twenty-five league goals and first to one hundred league appearances.
"I look at Pondy, a close friend, and the milestones he has achieved. He’s a fantastic role model. It’s nice to have made one or two of my own."
There have inevitably been memorable moments. Right up there would be the League Two Play-Off final against Burton Albion in May 2014. David did not score but was awarded Man of the Match.
"I got the shirt signed by the lads and it’s in my home along with a lovely old-style football that I got for Man of the Match. It was a brilliant day for Fleetwood. I will cherish that day. I know how hard everyone worked to get there."
Of the 47 goals, all are in the memory bank with perhaps just a hint of a clue to bring them to the front. An opponent, a ground… There have been some spectacular ones and a tasty top ten video could be compiled, for sure. We have often said on the Cod Army Player commentary how Ball does not score ordinary goals and this is something he is conscious of.
"It is in my nature to try the unexpected but it would be nice to get some tap-ins as well! A goal against Doncaster was in contention for Mitre Goal of the Year. That was a really good team goal."
The strike by which the twenty-seven year old will always be defined was against Preston North End on 29th March 2015. It was so good that it received a FIFA Puskas Award nomination, smart footwork around twenty yards from goal followed by a stunning chip.
"The occasion was a huge one, a big derby on Sky TV. It was fairly late as well, giving us a one-all draw. The magnitude which came for the club got us on to a wider map. It will stay crystal clear in my mind for life. To be only the second Englishman to be nominated behind Wayne Rooney was an honour for me."
It would definitely feature top of David’s list. He offered two more for his top three Fleetwood goals, more for their importance than their individual brilliance.
"My goal against Crewe in August 2014 was the first for Fleetwood at League One level and further emphasised the progress of the club. Then there was my last minute goal against Southend back in January. It was a good strike but more importantly kept our unbeaten run going. I think it was around twelve games at that point. Players don’t often go on runs like this in a career."
David pays tribute to the four managers he has worked under.
"They have all helped my game. I’ve played in different positions and formations. They have made me the player I am now where I can move around the pitch. Uwe Rosler was a top striker. When he tells you something, you listen. He has a fantastic knowledge of the game."
David has partnered strikers of all shapes, sizes and skills.
"I could name all of them but might need about ten minutes! You learn from them and hopefully them from me."
Off the pitch have come various hairstyles, notably a purple ‘mop’ one day! It attracted much attention.
"It was supposed to dye out to blond when washed! Obviously it didn’t! Fortunately, Jon Parkin wasn’t here at the time! I suppose it shows that I’m not afraid to try things on and off the pitch."
As he heads towards the manager’s target of 74 points and his own tally of 50 goals, we say congratulations to a popular player and great servant of the club who looks back with great pride at what he and Fleetwood Town have achieved in the last five years.