Dominic Ball is a defensive midfielder who has recently signed for Ipswich Town FC. He was a graduate of the Tottenham Hotspur academy, and his previous clubs include Rotherham United and Queens Park Rangers.
Lots of people have asked me: “why did you decide to write a book in the middle of your professional football career?” Here’s the answer.
As a youth, I played age representative football for both Northern Ireland and England. I was signed by Watford FC’s academy as a schoolboy and later became a youth player with Tottenham Hotspur, where I signed my first professional contract before moving to Rotherham United and then my current club, Queens Park Rangers. I have also had loan spells at Cambridge United, Rangers, Peterborough United and Aberdeen.
I successfully studied for an Open University degree in Business Studies which I completed in 2021. From Winning Teams to Broken Dreams is my first book, which is intended to provide advice, information and inspiration to future generations of aspiring young footballers.
Most importantly the book is to raise funds for Sarcoma UK, a charity that supports research into the rare form of bone cancer that claimed the life of Spencer McCall, one of the six boys featured and one of my best friends.
What is it like to give your all but see the dream of becoming a top-flight footballer slowly fade away?
This book lifts the lid on the highs and lows, doubts and fears, lucky breaks and heartache, trials and tribulations, lonely loan moves and cruel, untimely injuries experienced by many young footballers.
This is the real-life mud, sweat and tears journey of six band-of-brothers friends and their quest to become Premier League footballers. Plucked from junior clubs as primary school age children by England’s biggest football academies, From Winning Teams to Broken Dreams reveals the inside out experiences of boys who strain every sinew to make the grade.
Why write a book?
When I first became a professional player, I realised that I had a lot of spare time on my hands and initially I thought that the only productive thing I could do with that time was to train more, focus more on my football and go to the gym. I have always been quite intense, unable to relax and very active and therefore going to the gym in the evenings or staying late at training seemed the right thing for me to do. I realised very quickly however that this was not healthy for me and in fact was actually doing the opposite of helping my football. I was tired, demotivated, bored, my football was not improving and worst of all I was not enjoying it. It was the first time in my life that I had all this time with nothing to fill it with. I decided to start writing.
At the same time my loan spell at Peterborough was terminated and I returned to Rotherham (my parent club) where I was unable to play because of new EFL rules. I had to train for about 3 months for the rest of the season without playing a game. Waking up every morning without any real purpose or drive made this time really tough and mentally I needed something to stimulate me. I needed something to strive towards as I wasn’t getting this with my football. My experience at Peterborough had ended badly and I was frustrated with football. This gave me a direction and a meaning to my book. I wanted to share some of my footballing experiences with other people, other players to show how hard it can be at times. I wanted the book to help younger players and their parents who have yet to experience the whole process.
Then what happened in 2020 when the country was in lockdown?
Three years down the line, in the first lockdown, my best friend Spencer was diagnosed with terminal cancer and it broke my heart along with the rest of our group of friends. We all started raising money for Spencer to fund treatment abroad. I decided that I would finish the book and sell it to raise as much money as possible for Spencer.
I got in touch with Chris Green who had written a book along similar lines, and I asked if he would help me. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the book out in time but I have now finished it in Spencer’s memory and I hope to raise money for Sarcoma UK which focuses on research into this rare form of cancer.
Writing the book over the last five years hasn’t been easy. There have been months when I didn’t write a thing and there were other times where I would write for hours a day.
During the first lockdown, whenever we were given the heart-breaking news about Spencer, I knew that I needed to speed up things. I was desperate to release the book to aid Spencer’s fundraising attempts.
Writing a book like this which involved my friends was really interesting as we were all able to share openly our experiences and reflect on what was such a great time of our lives. On top of that we were able to discuss how tough the football journey is, different choices we all could have made and also how different methods and approaches might have helped us along the way.
We all agreed that we had some great times in football which we will cherish for ever and also some challenging times which have helped shape who we are today.