The world lost a true hero when Gordon Banks passed away on 12th February 2019. Tributes poured into the World Cup winning legend, with Pele leading the way with his heartfelt words. In a statement, he said:
“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.”
Responsible for the ‘greatest ever save’ and a key player in the only England team to date to win the World Cup, Gordon Banks is a footballing legend whose legacy is finely rooted in the history of the game – and even immortalised in stone, in Stoke.
A hero to many in Englandand an inspiration to many more around the world, Gordon Banks was a generation-defining goalkeeper. Paving the way for the likes of Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence who followed in his footsteps, his influence was felt by those after his football career as much as those during. Let’s take a look at his amazing career from his first steps in professional football to his awe-inspiring friendship with fellow superstar, Pele.
Having grown up in Sheffield as the son of a steelworker, Chesterfield was where Banks first made his name. He was part of the youth team that reached the 1956 FA Youth Cup final. Chesterfield ran a Manchester United youth team close and were defeated by a single goal over two legs (4-3 aggregate). That Manchester United team included future England and World Cup winning teammate, Sir Bobby Charlton.
Banks’ performances earned a senior call up and by November 1958 he was making his debut between the sticks for Chesterfield. His performances quickly brought him to the attention of the big clubs, and Leicester City secured his signature in a £7000 deal.
Though it was his international exploits for which Banks is best-known – his domestic efforts were by no means ordinary. Still celebrated across the Midlands today, Banks played a key role in Leicester City andStoke City‘s Cup-winning sides.
For some, it was a shame that a goalkeeper of his talent didn’t play for any of the so-called bigger teams at the time. But it is perhaps a tribute to the man that Banks was that he didn’t. Fiercely loyal to the clubs he played for, Banks’ dedication was rewarded by fans of those teams, who still hold him close to their heart today.
Banks helped Leicester City to two FA Cup Finals before winning the League Cup in 1964. He is today honoured at the King Power Stadium, having a lounge named after him, alongside other Foxes greats such as Gary Lineker and Arthur Rowley.
Banks is one of only 27 players to have made over 300 appearances for the club and one of three to have been nominated for the Ballon’ Dor (1966) while playing for Leicester City (alongside Jamie Vardy and Rihad Mahrez).
Despite his loyalty to the club Banks’ reward for helping his nation to an only ever World-Cup win and Leicester to four finals, was a transfer away to Stoke City, so they could move for Banks’ club and international replacement, Peter Shilton. But those bridges have been well and truly rebuilt since, with the club and him enjoying a wonderful relationship in recent years.
Arguably even more of an icon atStoke City, Banks played an integral role in the club winning their first and only major trophy to date, in 1972. His crucial penalty save against West Ham in the semi-finals proved pivotal. The save and the League Cup win are both cherished byStoke City fans today. A statue depicting his save was unveiled years later outside theStoke City stadium, and he became president for the club in 2000.
That World Cup
Banks wore the number one jersey for England in every game in the 1966 World Cup, helping England to lift the famous trophy. In what is still remembered as one of England’s biggest sporting triumphs, Banks was the reliable face between the sticks.
That Save & Pele’s Heartwarming Tribute
Extraordinary: Such was the impact of Banks’ save in the 1-0 group game loss to a Brazilian side fronted by Pele and deemed the best in the world – that it was voted by the British public in 2002 as 41st on a list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.
Banks wrote later about his now-famous exchange with Bobby Moore. After his save Bobby Moore joked: ‘You’re getting old Banksy, you used to hold onto those.’
Not only that, but Banks once confessed: “They won’t remember me for winning the World Cup, it’ll be for that save. That’s how big a thing it is. People just want to talk about that save.”
The save formed the basis of an unlikely yet remarkable friendship with Brazilian striker Pele. Pele said:
“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, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe how he moved so far, so fast.”
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.”
In addition to a glittering World Cup winners medal, Banks enjoyed a host of personal accolades. He was an inaugural inductee to the English Football Hall of Fame, was the first ‘legend’ to earn a star on Sheffield’s Walk of Fame and a statue in Stoke of Banks’ super save in 1970 was unveiled by Pelé in 2008.
Banks was named FWA Footballer of the Year in 1972 and was FIFA Goalkeeper of the year six times. The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) named him as the second best goalkeeper of the 20th century, behind only Lev Yashin.
Recognised and loved locally, nationally and internationally – Gordon Banks was a unique football personality who touched the lives of so many. Having been lucky enough to have worked with Gordon, we were lucky enough to witness his greatness as a player, public speaker and person. Thanks Gordon – for everything!