- England’s World Cup Winning Keeper In 1966
- A Superb After Dinner Speaker
Gordon Banks was born in Sheffield in 1937 and grew to become not only England’s World Cup winning keeper in 1966, but was acknowledged and later officially crowned as the World’s Best Goalkeeper in the 1970 World Cup Tournament in Mexico.
However the story could have been so much different.
Although Banks had played for both his school team, Tinsley County Secondary Modern and Sheffield boys in goal, through his own admission he’d not given serious thought to becoming a professional goalkeeper.
On leaving school he became a coalman’s mate, bagging and delivering coal for a living, though found the work physically exhausting and later became an apprentice bricklayer.
Bank’s return to football and the first steps to glory was indeed pure chance, having gone to watch a local team Millspaugh play, he was asked to play when the Millspaugh keeper failed to appear. Having joined up with Millspaugh, less than a year later Banks was signed by Romarsh, who played in a much higher standard league. And there once again the story might have ended.
Banks was spotted by a scout at Romarsh, and signed part-time pro forms for Chesterfield in 1955 for the princely wage of £2 a match. The following year, 1956 with the help of Banks, Chesterfield reached the FA Youth Cup Final, which at the time was a very prestigious tournament. In front of a crowd of 32,000 at Old Trafford, Chesterfield eventually lost out to the Manchester United team including Bobby Charlton that was to develop into the Busby Babes.
His career was then put on hold for two years whilst he served his national service in the Royal Signals based in Germany, where he met his wife Ursula. On completion of his service Banks returned to rejoin Chesterfield on £17 a week and played 23 league games times for the Spireites.
Banks though was beginning to attract the attention of several league clubs and joined Leicester City for £7,000 in May 1959.In his second season at the club he helped Leicester reach the FA Cup final, but lost to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley, as Spurs went on to complete the league and Cup double.
By this time, Banks was established in the England team, having made his international debut under Alf Ramsey (later to become Sir Alf) at Wembley on the 6th April 1963 against the old enemy, Scotland.
Although Banks played in many important games amongst his 73 appearances, with none more so than the 1966 World Cup Final victory, against West Germany at Wembley, Banks himself picks out the semi-final against Portugal as his No.1 classic game. England had reached the semi final stage without Banks having conceded a goal final. In his autobiography ‘Banks of England’ he wrote “The football played at Wembley that evening has never in my experience been surpassed”
Following the 4-2 victory against the Germans in the final, Banks returned to his club side Leicester and on to the next stage of his career as within 10 months of that World Cup victory the ‘ Greatest keeper in the World ‘ was put on the transfer list to make way for another future star keeper in the making, Peter Shilton .
Despite great interest form an array of clubs, Gordon signed for Stoke in April 1967 for £52,000.
In 1970 England with Banks firmly established in goal headed off to Mexico to defend their world crown. England won their opening game against Romania 1-0. In the second group game they played Brazil in a match rightly labelled a classic, remembered for the contest between Moore and Pele – and for a save by Banks that has rightly been hailed as the greatest ever save. The Brazilian ace was later to tell everyone that it was the greatest save he’d ever seen.
Banks had gone into the game knowing he’d been honoured by Buckingham Palace with the awarding of the OBE and produced a stunning performance.
England actually lost the game, but the save and Moore’s contest with Pele rightly out shine the result especially as England qualified for the next stage by beating Czechoslovakia 1-0. In the next round England famously went out to old rivals West Germany 3-2 after leading by two goals to nil, with Peter Bonetti playing in goal for England after Banks had been taken ill.
The 72 season culminated in Banks being voted ‘Footballer of the Year’ – the first keeper to receive the honour since Bert Trautman had won it in 1956. Gordon was also the subject of television’s ‘This is your life’ , Banks and indeed Stoke seemed set for further glory.
Within seven months of that Wembley victory Bank’s career lay in ruins – On Sunday 22nd October Banks was returning home from the Victoria ground having received treatment after the 2-1 defeat at Liverpool the previous day when he was involved in a traffic accident that resulted in him losing the sight in his right eye. Such was his standing that television programmes were interrupted to bring news of the crash.
Banks battled to regain full fitness including games in America with Fort Lauderdale, but sadly it was to be in vain and Banks never played for Stoke in a competitive game again.
He’d played 510 league games, 194 of them for Stoke and had won 36 international caps whilst at Stoke, just one fewer than when at Leicester.
Banks has since been made president of Stoke City, a fitting honour for the clubs and indeed the world’s greatest keeper.
Gordon is a superb after dinner speaker and will ensure your event/evening is a huge success as he talks of his outstanding careeer in the game of football, and how it “could all have been so different”.