'I feel good,' replies Alan Ball, soon after I begin my telephone interview by wishing him happy birthday. The morning sun is out over his beachfront cottage, somewhere between Portsmouth and Southampton, and Ball is looking forward to a quiet birthday lunch with his grandchildren. But Ball, the youngest member of England's 1966 World Cup-winning team, admits he would have been feeling loads better if Sven Goran Eriksson had picked another striker in the England squad for next month's World Cup in Germany. 'I feel Eriksson has made a massive mistake by not taking five strikers to Germany. He is only taking four strikers, and two of them are not a hundred per cent fit. This is very, very dangerous to England's chances of winning the World Cup,' says Ball, who will arrive in town tomorrow for next weekend's HKFC Philips Lighting International Soccer 7s. Ball - who turned 61 two days ago - is unhappy about the England manager's gamble to go with a four-prong strike-force of Wayne Rooney (broken metatarsal), Michael Owen (also recovering from a broken metatarsal), Peter Crouch, and the unheralded Theo Walcott. I feel guilty to have broached the subject about teenager Walcott's shock inclusion into the England squad, especially on a day when memories of the past must have been rushing through his mind. But Ball is profuse in his indictment of Eriksson - 'a foreigner'. Let's get it right - Ball has no qualms on the selection of the 17-year-old Walcott who is set to become the youngest England international in history and the second-youngest player to feature at a World Cup (after Norman Whiteside). Ball applauds Eriksson for being brave enough to pick the talented Walcott. 'I have known this boy since he was 12. I have had a few one-on-one's with him and I know him well. He is level-headed, has an awful lot of natural pace and is a natural finisher. But having said that, I'm worried about his lack of big-match experience,' says Ball. Walcott, who has yet to make his first-team debut for Arsenal, will head for Germany less than three months after his 17th birthday. Swede Eriksson has admitted he is taking the 'biggest, boldest and bravest' gamble of his career as a coach. Ball is praying that this won't turn out to be the outgoing England manager's biggest folly too. 'The whole of England is absolutely amazed at his decision, not so much picking Walcott, but rather going with a weakened strike force - with four of which two are on the injury list. 'He [Eriksson] is taking nine mid-fielders for four positions, but only four strikers with the two big guns not a hundred per cent. If he had taken five strikers, I would have fully applauded his decision to take Walcott,' says Ball. Ball knows first-hand how Walcott feels. Back in 1966, England manager Alf Ramsey included Ball, a tireless mid-fielder, in his plans for the World Cup which England were to host. The indefatigable Ball was the youngest member of the team captained by Bobby Moore, and went on to play a huge role as England beat Germany 4-2 at Wembley to win the World Cup for the first - and only - time. Although Walcott will be cast into Ball's role as being the youngest player, there is one huge difference between the two. While Walcott has still not played in the Premiership, Ball had already experienced the pressures of playing both for club and country back in 1966. 'I was 20 when I played in the 1966 World Cup. I might have been the youngest player in the team, but I had already played more than 50 games in the senior league and also turned out six times for England. I wasn't going in inexperienced as this young kid will be. 'It is totally unfair to expect Walcott to go out and play in a World Cup and be a match-winner. He will be expected to come in and make an impact and the pressure will be right on him,' says Ball. He adds: 'If one more striker from among three or four had been picked, I would have been happier.' It sounded like the birthday blues had got to the man who will be the main speaker at a dinner on Friday night at the Football Club. Ball's choices for that extra striker included Tottenham's Jermain Defoe, West Ham's Dean Ashton and Darren Bent from Charlton. Maybe one of them might still make the squad if Rooney's broken bone in his right foot doesn't heal before England's first game against Paraguay on June 10. 'If Rooney and Owen were fit, I would have no hesitation saying now that England would win the World Cup. We would have a really good chance. We have a good midfield and defence. The only concern is our forwards. But still, if we can perform as a team, I think we've got a chance. 'The whole country is gripped with World Cup fever at the moment. It is going to be a fantastic World Cup and we have got a talented squad. England is desperate to win the World Cup.' Ball modestly does not add - 'win the World Cup again'. Possessed with a quick mind, his one-touch football, vision and tenacity combined to make him one of the most enduring images of the 1966 team. It is reported that the 100,000-crowd at Wembley that day witnessed a magnificent performance from Ball. Full of running, he continued to work and sprint back and forth with his socks around his ankles. It was Ball who set up Geoff Hurst's hugely controversial second goal. A chase and a low cross led to Hurst's shot which bounced off the underside of the crossbar and across the goal-line, or not, depending on whom you supported. More than 40 years after that adrenalin-filled day, Ball reminisces. 'I don't have any regrets at all in my life. Football has given me so much and I'm very grateful for that for I have been really lucky,' he says. 'I was born in a poor area of England, but football gave me everything.' Even in his days as a starry-eyed schoolboy, Ball knew he was meant for great things. The marauding midfielder came to prominence at Blackpool after falling foul of his headmaster over missing games for his school team because he had signed a youth contract with Wolverhampton Wanderers. But after leaving school. Wolves decided not to take on Ball and he joined Blackpool. The journey had begun. From Blackpool he went to Everton for a then-record fee of #110,000. He was instrumental in Everton winning the 1970 Championship. By now he was one of the first names on Ramsey's teamsheet - he played in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico where the campaign to defend the title ended in a 3-2 loss to West Germany in the quarter-finals. 'I have been very lucky. I have played in two World Cups, played for my country and also captained it, played against some of the best players in the world, and of course was in a World Cup-winning team,' he says. Ball won 72 caps for England and captained England six times, during which they never lost. But somehow, he fell out of favour with Don Revie, and at 30, his international career ended. On the domestic front, Arsenal had bid a record GBP220,000 at the end of 1971 which saw Ball move to Highbury. From there, he moved to Southampton in 1976. He helped Southampton back into the First Division in 1978 and then went on to play in the fledgling North American League for the Vancouver Whitecaps. In 1982, Bobby Moore brought him to Hong Kong. 'I played for almost a season in the early 80s for Eastern. I played about 12 games and had a great time in Hong Kong and made many friends. I remember the standard of football in Hong Kong was quite good,' says Ball. It is almost time for Ball to take his grandkids out for lunch. I ask him why he auctioned his World Cup medal (for GBP140,000) last year. He says it was because of his children and to honour his wife, Lesley's dying wish. 'We have three children, and when my wife was dying of cancer two years ago, she asked me to look after the kids. I made the medal work for them by selling it and with that money, buying a house in Spain where we could all spend time together every year,' he explains. Today's English footballers won't need to sell their medals for money is plenty in professional football these days. But the question is will they have a medal to sell? Only time will tell - and probably if England had another striker.