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England's 1966 World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks dies after losing long battle with cancer



'I'm glad he saved my header – it started a friendship I'll always treasure': Pelé leads tributes to 1966 hero Gordon Banks after England's greatest goalkeeper dies aged 81 following battle with cancer

  • England's 1966 World Cup winner Gordon Banks has died at the age of 81 after losing his battle with cancer
  • He is the fourth member of the victorious team to pass away almost 53 years since they beat West Germany 
  • Banks' extraordinary save from Pele's header in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico is considered the greatest ever 
  • The legendary goalkeeper battled kidney cancer in recent years and passed away with his family at his side 
  • The England legend leaves behind his wife Ursula and the couple's three children Julia, Robert and Wendy 
  • Banks saw his career cut short in 1972 at the age of 34 when he became blind in left eye following a car crash

By Martin Robinson, Chief Reporter and Nathan Salt For Mailonline

Published: 04:51 EST, 12 February 2019 | Updated: 10:19 EST, 12 February 2019

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Pele today paid tribute to Gordon Banks and his 1970 'save of the century' against Brazil and said: 'I am glad he saved my header - because it was the start of a friendship that I will always treasure'.

The former Stoke and Leicester City player, who was part of the famous England side who lifted the Jules Rimet trophy for the first and only time at Wembley 53 years ago this summer, has died aged 81 after a battle with kidney cancer.

The 1966 World Cup winner is also remembered for the greatest save of all time when he tipped a header from Pele over the bar at full stretch in a match with Brazil at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. 

Pele, who would later become Banks' best friend, famously yelled 'goal' and put his arms in the air after the ball left his forehead - but stood open-mouthed as Banks somehow reached the ball as it went past him and flicked it away for a corner.

Speaking today from Brazil the former striker, 78, considered by many as the greatest player in history, gave his own tribute to the Englishman from Stoke-on-Trent he loved.

He said: 'I scored so many goals in my life, but many people, when they meet me, always ask me about that save. While it was indeed phenomenal, my memory of Gordon is not defined by that - it is defined by his friendship. He was a kind and warm man who gave so much to people.

'So I am glad he saved my header - because that act was the start of a friendship between us that I will always treasure. Whenever we met, it was always like we had never been apart.

'I have great sadness in my heart today and I send condolences to the family he was so proud of. Rest in peace, my friend. Yes, you were a goalkeeper with magic. But you were also so much more. You were a fine human being'. 

Pele with his old friend Gordon Banks, who died today, and the footballing greats became friends after the England goalkeeper's 'save of the century' at Mexico 1970 (shown in the picture they held together in 2004)

Today Banks' name and photos were put up on the facade of Wembley Stadium - the scene of his greatest moment in football almost 53 years ago
Today Banks' name and photos were put up on the facade of Wembley Stadium - the scene of his greatest moment in football almost 53 years ago

Today Banks' name and photos were put up on the facade of Wembley Stadium - the scene of his greatest moment in football almost 53 years ago

Gordon Banks, who was controversially never handed a knighthood and was forced to retire aged 34 after losing an eye in a car crash, endured several battles with kidney cancer and in recent months had been undergoing gruelling spells of chemotherapy. 

Pele's tribute to 'magic' friend Gordon Banks 

England's greatest goalkeeper Gordon Banks has passed away at the age of 81 after a battle with kidney cancer 
England's greatest goalkeeper Gordon Banks has passed away at the age of 81 after a battle with kidney cancer 

England's greatest goalkeeper Gordon Banks has passed away at the age of 81 after a battle with kidney cancer 

Pele today gave a long tribute to the late Gordon Banks. 

He said: 'For many people, their memory of Gordon Banks is defined by the save he made against me in 1970. I understand why.

'The save was one of the best I have ever seen - in real life and in all the thousands of games I have watched since.

'When you are a footballer, you know straight away how well you have hit the ball. I hit that header exactly as I had hoped. Exactly where I wanted it to go. And I was ready to celebrate.

'But then this man, Banks, appeared in my sight, like a kind of blue phantom, is how I described him. He came from nowhere and he did something I didn't feel was possible. He pushed my header, somehow, up and over. And I couldn't believe what I saw. Even now when I watch it l, I can't believe it. I can't believe how he moved so far, so fast.

'I scored so many goals in my life, but many people, when they meet me, always ask me about that save. While it was indeed phenomenal, my memory of Gordon is not defined by that - it is defined by his friendship. He was a kind and warm man who gave so much to people.

'So I am glad he saved my header - because that act was the start of a friendship between us that I will always treasure. Whenever we met, it was always like we had never been apart.

'I have great sadness in my heart today and I send condolences to the family he was so proud of.

'Rest in peace, my friend. Yes, you were a goalkeeper with magic. But you were also so much more. You were a fine human being'.

He passed away with family at his side after his health deteriorated significantly in recent weeks and he is survived by his wife Ursula, who he met on national service in Germany in 1955, and their three children Julia, Robert and Wendy.  

He is the fourth member of the 1966 team to die and his family said in a statement: 'It is with great sadness that we announce that Gordon passed away peacefully overnight. We are devastated to lose him but we have so many happy memories and could not have been more proud of him'. 

England's 1966 hero Sir Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in the final against West Germany, said today: 'Very sad to hear the news that Gordon has died. One of the very greatest. Thinking especially of Ursula, Julia, Wendy and Robert. Sad for football, Stoke City and for England fans. Will be very sadly missed'.  

Bobby Charlton, who was part of the team alongside Banks that won the World Cup in 1966, said: 'I was proud to call him a team-mate. Obviously we shared that great day in 1966 but it was more than that. Even though I was on the pitch and have seen it many times since, I still don't know how he saved that header from Pele'.

Peter Shilton, who followed Banks as England number one and is his only competition as the country's greatest ever goalkeeper, tweeted: 'I'm devastated - today I've lost my hero, our condolences to his family. RIP Gordon.'

Former England captain David Beckham said: 'Our World Cup winner & our greatest goalkeeper of all time. A hero and a gentleman. Our thoughts go out to Gordon’s family and friends. Rest In Peace'. 

Banks became a footballing icon in England and around the world for his football career and incredible saves while playing for his country.

But in recent years he had fought cancer, finally losing his battle shortly after his 81st birthday.

Many of his old Stoke team-mates had been visiting him at his home in Madeley, Staffordshire, in the hope of inspiring one more recovery, but to no avail this time.

The news of his death was revealed in a statement from the Banks family on his beloved Stoke City's official website.  

The England 1966 World Cup winner pictured with the team, closest to Bobby Moore and Roger Hunt, holding the Jules Rimet trophy after beating West Germany 4-2. He is now the fourth member of the team to pass away
The England 1966 World Cup winner pictured with the team, closest to Bobby Moore and Roger Hunt, holding the Jules Rimet trophy after beating West Germany 4-2. He is now the fourth member of the team to pass away

The England 1966 World Cup winner pictured with the team, closest to Bobby Moore and Roger Hunt, holding the Jules Rimet trophy after beating West Germany 4-2. He is now the fourth member of the team to pass away

In 1970 came the greatest save of all time against Pele, who shouted 'goal' when he headed it towards goal but could not beat Banks in the World Cup group stages in Mexico
In 1970 came the greatest save of all time against Pele, who shouted 'goal' when he headed it towards goal but could not beat Banks in the World Cup group stages in Mexico

In 1970 came the greatest save of all time against Pele, who shouted 'goal' when he headed it towards goal but could not beat Banks in the World Cup group stages in Mexico

Pictured with wife Ursula in 2002, Banks lost battle with cancer after battling in recent years
Pictured with wife Ursula in 2002, Banks lost battle with cancer after battling in recent years
Gordon Banks and his wife Ursula Banks at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in 2016
Gordon Banks and his wife Ursula Banks at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in 2016

Pictured with wife Ursula in 2002, left, and 2016 at Wimbledon, right, Banks lost battle with cancer after fighting the disease since at least 2015

Stoke fans leave flowers and scarves on the statue of Gordon Banks today, who was born and bred in the city and played for the club he supported

David Beckham led the tributes to England's greatest goalkeeper Gordon Banks, who was a hero to millions
David Beckham led the tributes to England's greatest goalkeeper Gordon Banks, who was a hero to millions

David Beckham led the tributes to England's greatest goalkeeper Gordon Banks, who was a hero to millions

Gordon Banks with his wife Ursula and son Robert in 1959.
Gordon Banks with his wife Ursula and son Robert in 1959.
Gordon Banks with his wife Ursula And two of their three children Robert, then 12, and Wendy, then seven at Buckingham Palace when he received his OBE in 1970
Gordon Banks with his wife Ursula And two of their three children Robert, then 12, and Wendy, then seven at Buckingham Palace when he received his OBE in 1970

Gordon Banks with his wife Ursula and son Robert in 1959. He is also pictured with two of their three children Robert, then 12, and Wendy, then seven at Buckingham Palace when he received his OBE in 1970

The great and good of English football have paid tribute to Mr Banks, including his 1966 World Cup teammate Sir Geoff Hurst
The great and good of English football have paid tribute to Mr Banks, including his 1966 World Cup teammate Sir Geoff Hurst

The great and good of English football have paid tribute to Mr Banks, including his 1966 World Cup teammate Sir Geoff Hurst

Banks hugs Sir Bobby Charlton after they beat Northern Ireland at Wembley in 1970 - Sir Bobby today spoke of his pride at playing with Gordon at two World Cups and his awe at the famous 'save of the century'
Banks hugs Sir Bobby Charlton after they beat Northern Ireland at Wembley in 1970 - Sir Bobby today spoke of his pride at playing with Gordon at two World Cups and his awe at the famous 'save of the century'

Banks hugs Sir Bobby Charlton after they beat Northern Ireland at Wembley in 1970 - Sir Bobby today spoke of his pride at playing with Gordon at two World Cups and his awe at the famous 'save of the century'

Banks at home with his wife Ursula. They met when he was on national service in Germany in 1955, and have three children
Banks at home with his wife Ursula. They met when he was on national service in Germany in 1955, and have three children

Banks at home with his wife Ursula. They met when he was on national service in Germany in 1955, and have three children

His agent Terry Baker today revealed the former England goalkeeper knew he did not have long left after his health deteriorated after Christmas.

The celebrated England goalkeeper was last seen in public last June at the funeral of World Cup legend Ray Wilson. Four of the 1966 heroes have now passed away
The celebrated England goalkeeper was last seen in public last June at the funeral of World Cup legend Ray Wilson. Four of the 1966 heroes have now passed away

The celebrated England goalkeeper was last seen in public last June at the funeral of World Cup legend Ray Wilson. Four of the 1966 heroes have now passed away

Mr Baker said: 'It's a sad day but we knew it was coming. We knew a couple of weeks ago that he wasn't going to last that much longer. But it is still a bit of a shock when it happens. His family were with him and maybe rest in peace.

'He clung on for years and he had been ill for years and years with one thing or another. He got to 81 and until a couple of weeks ago he was still going out for walks.

'He was a really, really nice person and was obviously a great goalkeeper.

'Pele was very, very fond of him. They were best of friends as well. Pele always said that he won three World Cups and yet all anyone in England ever asked him was about Gordon Banks making that save from him.

'Never a day passed by without him (Banks) being asked about it but he never minded and he would tell anybody about it.

'The rest of the team who won the World Cup will be remembered for being the only team to have won the World Cup but he never gets mentioned in that because of that 1970 save.'

England manager Gareth Southgate said on the Football Association website: 'I am deeply saddened to hear of Gordon's passing.

'An all-time great for England, I was privileged enough to be in his company on a number of occasions.

'It was particularly special to be with him at a Football Writers' tribute dinner last year and wish him well on his 80th birthday.

'Gordon spoke to the room about that incredible save from Pele against Brazil back in 1970 and moments like that from his remarkable World Cup-winning career will continue to linger long in the memory.

'On behalf of everyone connected with England, I send my condolences to his wife Ursula, his family and friends.'

Germany's football federation posted their tribute to England's greatest goalkeeper with this image from after the 1966 
Germany's football federation posted their tribute to England's greatest goalkeeper with this image from after the 1966 

Germany's football federation posted their tribute to England's greatest goalkeeper with this image from after the 1966 

The Germany football team's Twitter account posted an image of Banks embracing opposition players on the Wembley pitch in 1966.

'A fierce opponent and a good man. Rest in peace, Gordon Banks,' they tweeted.

Presenter and former England striker Gary Lineker tweeted: 'Oh no. Gordon Banks, an absolute hero of mine, and countless others, has died. @England's World Cup winner was one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, and such a lovely, lovely man. #RIPGordon'

Current England and Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling tweeted: 'Of course there was THAT save, but its so much more we are mourning today. RIP Gordon Banks. @England legend, your legacy will live on. All my thoughts with the family.'

Banks made 510 league appearances for Chesterfield, Leicester and Stoke and won 73 senior international caps. He was one of the stars of England's 1966 World Cup triumph against West Germany.

He will always be remembered for a remarkable save he made to deny Brazil superstar Pele four years later in Mexico.

Banks lost the sight in his right eye after being injured in a road accident in 1972 and retired at the age of 34 as a result.

Another former England number one, Ray Clemence, posted on Twitter: 'This is such sad news someone I looked up to and a great mentor. I had the honour of training with him in his last couple of years with England. Definitely England's greatest goalkeeper and will be sadly missed, wonderful man. Thoughts are with family and friends #RIP'

Leicester City, for whom Banks played for much of the 1960s, tweeted: 'Leicester City Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the death of our former goalkeeper Gordon Banks OBE, who has passed away at the age of 81.'

Leicester City and England defender Harry Maguire wrote on Twitter: 'A World Cup winner, a legend. RIP Gordon Banks.' 

Jamie Vardy tweeted an image of Banks' famous save against Brazil, with the words: 'Legend..... RIP Gordon Banks.' 

Ex-England striker Michael Owen tweeted: 'Sad to hear that Gordon Banks has passed away at the age of 81. Had the pleasure of meeting him a number of times and he was one of the game's true gentlemen, not to mention one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. Rest In Peace.'

Former Manchester United and Denmark goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel tweeted: 'So sad to hear that Gordon Banks one of my heroes and a true legend in life and football, has passed away. An inspiration, a winner and a true gentleman. My thoughts are with his family and friends. #RIPGordonBanks'.

Chesterfield FC, where Banks began his career in the late 1950s, tweeted: 'The sad news reaches us that legendary former Spireite Gordon Banks has passed away. Gordon, who started his career at Chesterfield, was of course part of England's 1966 World Cup-winning team. Our thoughts are with Gordon's family and friends.'

His status as an all-time great may have been sealed at the 1966 World Cup, but it was the save Gordon Banks produced to deny Pele four years later which became his defining moment on the international stage.

The goalkeeper's spectacular stop in a group-stage clash with Brazil during England's defence of the trophy in Mexico is widely regarded as one of the greatest saves of all time.

Banks, who has died at the age of 81, flung himself to his right and, in a feat which seemed to defy the laws of physics, somehow managed with one hand not only to keep Pele's powerful downward header out, but also flick the ball over the bar.

Gordon Banks celebrates with his Leicester City teammates as they reach the FA Cup Final in 1963
Gordon Banks celebrates with his Leicester City teammates as they reach the FA Cup Final in 1963

Gordon Banks celebrates with his Leicester City teammates as they reach the FA Cup Final in 1963

Banks makes a flying save while playing for Leicester in 1966. He represented the Foxes at the height of his career
Banks makes a flying save while playing for Leicester in 1966. He represented the Foxes at the height of his career

Banks makes a flying save while playing for Leicester in 1966. He represented the Foxes at the height of his career

Banks holds onto the ball during the 1966 World Cup Final. England beat West Germany 4-2 at Wembley to lift the trophy
Banks holds onto the ball during the 1966 World Cup Final. England beat West Germany 4-2 at Wembley to lift the trophy

Banks holds onto the ball during the 1966 World Cup Final. England beat West Germany 4-2 at Wembley to lift the trophy

Banks makes his famous spectacular save from a downward header by Pele in the 1970 World Cup group stages - widely considered the greatest save of all time

Banks and Pele would become close friends following the 'save of the century' in Mexico almost 50 years ago
Banks and Pele would become close friends following the 'save of the century' in Mexico almost 50 years ago

Banks and Pele would become close friends following the 'save of the century' in Mexico almost 50 years ago

In 1972, at just 35, a car crash derailed Banks's career when it left him blind in one eye and he was forced to retire
In 1972, at just 35, a car crash derailed Banks's career when it left him blind in one eye and he was forced to retire

In 1972, at just 35, a car crash derailed Banks's career when it left him blind in one eye and he was forced to retire

The moment enhanced yet further the reputation of a man who, as an ever present in the triumphant 1966 campaign, made it through to the closing stages of the semi-final before conceding a goal - and even then was only beaten by a penalty from Portugal's Eusebio.

Along with a World Cup-winner's medal, Banks' 73-cap CV featured six FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year awards.

It also showed notable success at club level, with two League Cup wins, with Leicester in 1964 and Stoke in 1972.

Not bad for someone who was discarded by Rawmarsh Welfare as a 15-year-old after two games that had seen him let in 15 goals.

Born in Sheffield in 1937, Banks' time playing for Sheffield schoolboys was also inauspicious, dropped aged 14 after two games without explanation.

He left school in 1952 and went on to work as a coal bagger and then an apprentice bricklayer.

His return to football happened almost by accident, turning up to watch local side Millspaugh and being summoned to play in goal after their regular goalkeeper failed to turn up - and doing so in his working trousers.

Banks carries the Olympic Torch in front of Wembley on July 25, 2012, two days before the start of the London 2012 Olympics
Banks carries the Olympic Torch in front of Wembley on July 25, 2012, two days before the start of the London 2012 Olympics

Banks carries the Olympic Torch in front of Wembley on July 25, 2012, two days before the start of the London 2012 Olympics

Gordon Banks clutches the World Cup and a shirt of his beloved Stoke City, where he was a club ambassador until his death
Gordon Banks clutches the World Cup and a shirt of his beloved Stoke City, where he was a club ambassador until his death

Gordon Banks clutches the World Cup and a shirt of his beloved Stoke City, where he was a club ambassador until his death

Banks' performances for Millspaugh led to him being recruited by Yorkshire League outfit Rawmarsh.

His time with them was brief and chastening, playing in 12-2 and 3-1 defeats before being told not to turn up again.

But after returning to Millspaugh, he soon attracted interest once again, being offered a trial with Chesterfield's youth team towards the end of the 1952-53 season, which was successful.

It was certainly not all plain sailing from there - Banks conceded 122 goals over 1954-55 with Chesterfield's reserves - but he was part of the Spireites side that reached the 1956 FA Youth Cup final.

And after making his first-team debut for the Third Division club in November 1958, a move to the top flight came quickly, with Leicester signing him at the end of that season.

In the six years that followed, Banks helped the Foxes reach four cup finals, suffering FA Cup defeats in 1961 to Tottenham and 1963 to Manchester United, celebrating his first piece of silverware in 1964 with victory over Stoke in the League Cup, and then losing to Chelsea in that competition in 1965.

Banks' England career also began during that period, his senior debut coming in 1963 against Scotland at Wembley.

That game finished in a disappointing 2-1 reverse, but three years later he tasted the ultimate glory at the same venue, lifting the World Cup after the defeat of West Germany at the end of a tournament in which he had kept clean sheets against Uruguay, Mexico, France and Argentina.

Despite him having reached that pinnacle of footballing achievement, Leicester, who had a teenage Peter Shilton on their books, opted to sell Banks to Stoke as the following season came to a close.

He was 29 at that point - and would subsequently prove he still had plenty to offer.

The famous save in Guadalajara in 1970 was the most obvious example, with Banks' worth underlined as England lost their quarter-final to West Germany 3-2, with their number one absent due to illness. Conspiracy theories abounded that Banks had been poisoned to take him out of the match, but there was no evidence to support them and the man himself gave them no credence.

There was also a memorable stop for the Potters en route to them winning the 1972 League Cup, Banks keeping out a penalty from fellow 1966 hero Geoff Hurst in the semi-finals against West Ham before Chelsea were overcome in the final.

Banks, by then an OBE, ended that season as The Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year, but his playing days were almost done. A car crash in October 1972 led to him losing the sight in his right eye and he retired in the summer of 1973.

He still went on to have a short, successful spell in goal for American side Fort Lauderdale Strikers, despite his visual impairment. He coached at Stoke and Port Vale and was boss of non-league Telford, with his sacking in 1980 after just one full season in charge convincing him he did not want to carry on in management.

Banks was subsequently involved in the running of a Leicester-based corporate hospitality company for a period, and became a member of the three-man football pools panel.

In 2002, Stoke named him as club president, and a statue of a smiling Banks holding the Jules Rimet trophy aloft was unveiled at their ground in 2008, an occasion attended by his old friend and rival Pele.

Banks revealed in 2015 he was fighting kidney cancer for a second time, having lost a kidney to the disease 10 years earlier.

He is survived by his wife Ursula, whom he met during his national service in Germany in 1955, and their three children, Robert, Wendy and Julia.

Gordon Banks has died aged 81 – now read Sportsmail’s interview with England’s World Cup winning goalkeeper from 2016 on how he got poisoned at the 1970 World Cup and why THAT save wasn’t his best ever

By Ian Ladyman for the Daily Mail

World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks on Tuesday died at the age of 81 after a long-term battle with cancer.

The former Stoke and Leicester City goalkeeper was part of the famous England side who lifted the World Cup in 1966.

He also made one of the best saves of all time during the 1970 tournament. 

In 2016, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the triumph in 1966, Banks sat down with Sportsmail's Ian Ladyman for an interview about his career and those glorious days in an England shirt. 

World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks died on Tuesday morning at the age of 81
World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks died on Tuesday morning at the age of 81

World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks died on Tuesday morning at the age of 81

Every Tuesday morning when he meets his old Stoke City team-mates for a walk around the lake at Trentham Gardens, Gordon Banks remarks on the passing of time.

‘When I was young older people were always wondering where the years had gone and I used to wonder what they were talking about,’ he smiled this week.

‘Now that I am their age I am the same. It’s gone so quickly, it’s incredible. Some of the old Stoke lads — me, Denis Smith, Terry Conroy, Jimmy Greenhoff — go for a walk once a week and we were talking about that this morning. Time is racing on.’

This year, of all years, is suited to reflection for Banks, a time to cherish the past rather than wonder where it has gone. It is 50 years this July since England won the World Cup at Wembley and Sir Alf Ramsey’s goalkeeper, currently battling kidney cancer for the second time, is ready to embrace some of life’s better memories.

Banks and Bobby Moore hold the trophy aloft in the aftermath of England's World Cup win
Banks and Bobby Moore hold the trophy aloft in the aftermath of England's World Cup win

Banks and Bobby Moore hold the trophy aloft in the aftermath of England's World Cup win

‘The simple secret of the team was how much we liked each other,’ Banks told Sportsmail.

‘We didn’t want to let each other down.

‘People talk about some of us more than others, but there were heroes all through that team. Simple, selfless men.

‘Look at Roger Hunt. People didn’t realise the running he did so Geoff Hurst could have space to score his goals. People don’t see that. We did. Alan Ball was voted our best player of the World Cup by the players themselves. He deserved it. He worked so hard, up and down, up and down. He never missed a pass or a tackle. He never got the headlines, but we couldn’t have won it without him.

‘It’s great to celebrate the anniversary, it really is. I am more proud than anyone will ever know. It’s just so sad that people like Bobby Moore and Alan are no longer with us. They did so much for that team. It’s just wrong that we can’t see them this year of all years.’

Bobby Moore, who passed away in 1993, led England to their only World Cup triumph to date
Bobby Moore, who passed away in 1993, led England to their only World Cup triumph to date

Bobby Moore, who passed away in 1993, led England to their only World Cup triumph to date

Jimmy Greaves puts his arm around an exhausted Alan Ball after 120 minutes of unselfish effort
Jimmy Greaves puts his arm around an exhausted Alan Ball after 120 minutes of unselfish effort

Jimmy Greaves puts his arm around an exhausted Alan Ball after 120 minutes of unselfish effort

Banks no longer has his medal from the World Cup final. Like many of Ramsey’s team, he sold it — at Christie’s for more than £120,000 — to help his three children buy their first houses.

‘It makes me very sad but it was a practical decision that had to be made,’ he said. ‘Some of the other players have done it. I don’t know where it went, sadly. I had no other way of supporting the kids. But I would have loved to have kept it.’ Banks does have an OBE and by the end of this year may benefit from a growing campaign to award the surviving members of the 1966 team knighthoods.

‘I have never taken anything away from Geoff Hurst for his knighthood,’ he said. ‘But it has always seemed unfair to pick one man out of a team because obviously without the rest of the players he wouldn’t have been able to do what he did.

‘So, yes, it would be very special to get one. We will see.’

Banks sold his World Cup-winners medal at auction in 2001 to support his children
Banks sold his World Cup-winners medal at auction in 2001 to support his children

Banks sold his World Cup-winners medal at auction in 2001 to support his children

What Banks certainly does have in abundance are stories.

Born in Yorkshire, he started his career with Chesterfield as a teenager while still digging ditches and carrying bricks on a building site.

‘My dad had made me leave school at 15 after I got dropped from the schools team in Sheffield,’ he recalled. ‘He said school was no good if I wasn’t in the representative team and he made me get a job.’

Subsequently, Banks made his name with Leicester City and Stoke City — who meet at the King Power Stadium — and, of course, England. Now 78, he is a life president of Stoke, a member of the three-man pools panel and a regular at the Britannia Stadium.

Recently he met up with young Stoke and England goalkeeper Jack Butland. ‘I wanted to ask him why keepers no longer have defenders on the post at corners but I forgot,’ he laughed.

Banks appreciates the modern game but his recollections of his own glory days remain clear and the distinctions between now and then are striking. Few goalkeepers in the modern age would find themselves in a panic before a big game because of a missing packet of chewing gum. ‘I didn’t use gloves in those days, only when it was wet,’ said Banks. ‘Woollen ones like the ones you may buy to wear in winter now with your overcoat.

Banks made his name at Leicester and is pictured catching a dog at Filbert Street in 1965
Banks made his name at Leicester and is pictured catching a dog at Filbert Street in 1965

Banks made his name at Leicester and is pictured catching a dog at Filbert Street in 1965

Banks - without gloves - watches a shot going wide in an FA Cup tie against Leyton Orient
Banks - without gloves - watches a shot going wide in an FA Cup tie against Leyton Orient

Banks - without gloves - watches a shot going wide in an FA Cup tie against Leyton Orient

‘But I learned from (former Manchester City goalkeeper) Bert Trautmann to get a couple of pieces of chewing gum and start chewing. He told me to wait until just before the icing on the gum cracked and then spit on my hands and smooth it over. Then when the opposition came over the halfway line you just had to lick your palms and they would immediately get sticky and help you hold the ball when it came.

‘At the World Cup, England trainer Harold Shepherdson always used to lay me some out before a game, but before the semi-final against Portugal I was in the dressing room and I said to Alf, “Where is my gum? It’s not on the massage table”.

‘Alf just looked at Harold and he went bright red and said, “I have forgotten it”. So Alf sent him off down Wembley Way to the nearest newsagent. By this time we were standing in the tunnel ready to go out.

‘He must have run down Wembley Way like lightning. Anyway, he got it to me just in time. I wouldn’t have been the same without it. I had just got so used to it…’

By the time the most famous moment of his career arrived, Banks had forsaken chewing gum for goalkeeping gloves. Time was, as always, moving on.

Mexico 1970 and Banks saves from Pele, a moment that changed his life. Interestingly, he doesn’t feel it was the best work of his career.

‘No, that was a penalty from Geoff Hurst against Stoke in the League Cup semi-final in 1972,’ he said.

Nevertheless, the save from Pele looks as phenomenal now as it did then. The years have not dimmed its majesty. Watch Bobby Moore on the YouTube footage. The great England captain thinks Pele’s header is in.

[embedded content]
Banks repels Geoff Hurst's penalty in 1972 League Cup semi-final, a save he believed was better that the Pele one
Banks repels Geoff Hurst's penalty in 1972 League Cup semi-final, a save he believed was better that the Pele one

Banks repels Geoff Hurst's penalty in 1972 League Cup semi-final, a save he believed was better that the Pele one

[embedded content]
Banks basks in the glory of Stoke's League Cup victory against West Ham with the Daily Mail
Banks basks in the glory of Stoke's League Cup victory against West Ham with the Daily Mail

Banks basks in the glory of Stoke's League Cup victory against West Ham with the Daily Mail

ENGLAND IN THE 1966 WORLD CUP 

Group stage

England 0-0 Uruguay

England 2-0 Mexico

England 2-0 France

Quarter-final

England 1-0 Argentina

Semi-final 

England 2-1 Portugal

Final

England 4-2 (AET) West Germany 

It’s just a shame that a mythical comment from Moore said to have followed turns out not to be true.

‘I tell my after-dinner audiences that Bob leaned over and said, “Banksy, try and hold them. No silly corners!”,’ he laughed.

‘But he didn’t really say that. He just tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Well done”. But I heard Pele shout “Goal” after he headed it. Definitely. He thought it was past me.’

In the early years of his career, Banks never practised goalkeeping as such. Leicester didn’t have a training ground so the players used to run around the pitch at Filbert Street, lift some weights in the gym and then play five-a-side on the car park. No place to be diving about.

By 1970, though, Banks had progressed, studying opponents and ordering reserve-team players at Stoke to come back in the afternoon and pepper him with shots and crosses. On that day in Guadalajara, it paid off.

‘Out there in Mexico I had to get extra practice,’ he recalled. ‘It was so hot. We were losing half a stone in training and the pitches were rock hard underneath the grass.

‘I noticed in shooting sessions that sometimes the ball would kick up a bit more off its first bounce and come up higher than normal.

‘It was this that helped me make the save as I was able to anticipate that it was going to bounce up and it meant I could flick it over.’

England and Brazil line-up in the altitude and heat of Guadalajara before a classic encounter
England and Brazil line-up in the altitude and heat of Guadalajara before a classic encounter

England and Brazil line-up in the altitude and heat of Guadalajara before a classic encounter

Jairzinho beats Banks and breaks England's resistance to score the only goal of the game
Jairzinho beats Banks and breaks England's resistance to score the only goal of the game

Jairzinho beats Banks and breaks England's resistance to score the only goal of the game

England lost that group game 1-0, Banks beaten by another Brazilian icon, Jairzinho. It was his absence with food poisoning from the subsequent quarter-final with West Germany that cost England, however, as Ramsey’s team let a 2-0 lead slip to lose 3-2 in extra-time. Sadly stand-in goalkeeper Peter Bonetti contributed a decisive mistake.

ENGLAND IN THE 1970 WORLD CUP 

Group stage 

Romania 0-1 England

Brazil 1-0 England

England 1-0 Czechoslovakia 

Quarter-final 

West Germany 3-2 (AET) England 

‘I felt very sorry for Peter,’ said Banks. ‘He had been put in right at the last minute. He hadn’t played for a long time and here he was thrust in against that team of all teams. I have never blamed him. He was a fine keeper.

‘But I do worry the same thing may happen to Jack (Butland) if the England manager doesn’t give him some matches soon. You need to know how it feels, the nerves, the tunnel, the anthems. Playing for England in big games is different to anything else and you have to have a chance to get used to it.’

Banks has never bought into the theory that he was deliberately poisoned before the West Germany game but over the years his stance has shifted slightly.

‘What shook me was that we all sat down together and ate exactly the same food so how come I was the only one who got food poisoning?’ he said.

‘I never used to think there was something amiss, but I have started to wonder. Why did only I get it? It doesn’t add up, does it? It is such a shame because I thought the team was as good as 1966 and I thought we were as good as Brazil, who won it.

‘I think I could have given the defence a lift (against West Germany) and helped us get through. And if we had done that I think we could have won it again.’

Banks believes England team of 1970 could have lifted the trophy, were it not for some ill luck
Banks believes England team of 1970 could have lifted the trophy, were it not for some ill luck

Banks believes England team of 1970 could have lifted the trophy, were it not for some ill luck

England were 2-0 up before Peter Bonetti's mistake gifted Franz Beckenbauer a goal
England were 2-0 up before Peter Bonetti's mistake gifted Franz Beckenbauer a goal

England were 2-0 up before Peter Bonetti's mistake gifted Franz Beckenbauer a goal

The lethal Gerd Muller pounced from close range to break English hearts in extra-time
The lethal Gerd Muller pounced from close range to break English hearts in extra-time

The lethal Gerd Muller pounced from close range to break English hearts in extra-time

The English career of probably our finest-ever goalkeeper ended on a country lane in Staffordshire one night in October 1972.

Overtaking on a bend, Banks’ Ford Consul smashed into an Austin A60 van, leaving him requiring 200 stitches to facial injuries that cost him the sight in his right eye.

‘I can’t believe what I was doing,’ he said. ‘It was my fault, stupid. The van had a little lad in it. I could hear him crying, but fortunately for me he wasn’t hurt.

‘I couldn’t see a thing, but I was so relieved to hear that.’

Banks actually subsequently played a season in the North American Soccer League for Fort Lauderdale Strikers, winning the competition against teams featuring some old faces. ‘Pele, Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto... they were all there,’ he said. ‘I can’t believe how well I played with one eye. It shows what can be done if you try.’

Banks’ career certainly took its toll physically, a broken wrist, finger, collarbone and nose among the injuries.

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