Banks of England – one of the game’s true greats

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Gordon Banks, brilliant England World Cup-winning goalkeeper, passes away peacefully, aged 81

The football family mourns a very special one today, as news broke of the passing of Gordon Banks. He began his football career at Chesterfield, before lengthy spells first at Leicester, and then Stoke.

Internationally, he was England’s goalkeeper from 1963 to 1972, winning 73 caps. He had few peers anywhere in the world during his international career – perhaps only Lev Yashin, the great Russian, was in Gordon’s class.

He was of course one of England’s 1966 heroes, but it’s for a World Cup save four years later in Guadalajara, Mexico, that arguably he’s best known.

Jairzinho, Brazil’s scoring sensation from that tournament, broke down the right and chipped over an inviting cross. Pele no less, hanging, leaping, directed a firm downward header inside the post. As it bounced, and just before it crossed the line, Banks twisted backwards and scooped the ball over the angle of post and bar.

It’s often rated the greatest save of all time, and still defies belief, frankly. Later in the tournament, England played West Germany in a quarter-final in Leon, and disastrously, Gordon was unable to play, suffering with a severe stomach upset.

England let a 2-0 lead slip and lost 3-2, after extra-time. Many believed the result would have been different had Banks of England had been in his usual spot.

Pele has said of that save “I am glad he saved my header – because that act was the start of a friendship between us that I will always treasure. 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.”

Amen to that. RIP Gordon Banks, special footballer, special man.



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