Gordon Banks OBE – One of the World’s Greatest Goalkeepers, 1966 Legend and Entertaining After-Dinner Speaker.
Gordon Banks was born in Sheffield, December 1937. Banks 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.
On leaving school Gordon Banks became a coalman’s mate, bagging and delivering coal for a living, he found the work physically exhausting and later became an apprentice bricklayer
Whilst playing for local team Millspaugh, his ability as a goalkeeper was spotted by a scout from Chesterfield of the then Third Division North.
Gordon Banks signed part-time pro forms for Chesterfield in 1955 for the princely wage of £2 a match
After performances in the youth and A teams gained him promotion to the reserves, Banks was posted to Germany with the Royal Signals on National Service, winning the Rhine Cup with his regimental team. On his return he was offered a full-time contract by the Chesterfield manager, Ted Davison.
Gordon Banks made his debut for the first team in November 1958 against Colchester United and had played just 23 games for the club before accepting an offer of £7,000 from First Division Leicester City.
Gordon made his Leicester City debut in a 1-1 draw against Blackpool on 9th September 1959.
In 1963, the new England coach Alf Ramsay was looking towards the next World Cup. Banks was checked out by Ramsay for the first time in April 1963 against Scotland at Wembley. Ramsay was impressed with Gordon’s performance and led to Gordon playing in 13 of the next 15 internationals.
By 1965, Gordon Banks was indisputably the first-choice England goalkeeper. He was settling into the form of his life which would last for the next seven years; agile and alert, he was frequently seen making amazing reflex saves and possessed flawless positional sense and reading of attackers’ movements and instincts.
The 1966 World Cup:
England got through their group containing Uruguay, Mexico, France, beat Argentina in the last eight, and Portugal in the semi-final.
England went through to the final facing West Germany.
After and initial goal by Helmut Haller, England took control of the final with a goal by Geoff Hurst and then Martin Peters. After an equalizing goal by German defender Wolfgang Weber the match went into extra time.
England took the lead in extra time with that hotly debated third goal from Hurst. Banks was not troubled until the final minute, when he saved a shot from Siggy Held and moments later could only watch as Uwe Seeler lunged for the ball and missed. Hurst then scored his hat-trick goal and the game was all over. Banks was recognised as the World’s number one keeper.
After the Word Cup, Gordon Banks left Leicester and joined Stoke City and maintained his England place.
England reached the last four of the 1968 European Championships where they lost to Yugoslavia in Florence. Gordon played in nine more internationals prior to the start of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, for which England once again had not needed to qualify, this time owing to their status as holders.
Banks, who discovered just after arriving in Mexico that he had been decorated with the OBE, played his 60th England game in the opening group victory over Romania before taking to the field for the keenly-awaited clash with Brazil. After just ten minutes, Banks wrote himself into football folklore with a shot from Pele – what has become known as the Save of the Century.
England faced West Germany once again in the 1970 World Cup, this time it was in the semi-finals, and unfortunately Gordon would not be playing due to an upset stomach. England were ultimately knocked out of the World Cup.
On 22nd October 1972, while driving home from a session with the Stoke physiotherapist, Banks lost control of his car which ended up in a ditch. He lost consciousness and was rushed to hospital. When he came round, he was informed that though he had not suffered any life-threatening injury, he had lost the sight in his right eye. He considered trying to resume his career as a goalkeeper but even he had to accept that the loss of binocular vision was an obvious barrier to maintaining his goalkeeping livelihood. Peter Shilton later became England’s number one.
Gordon Banks had won 73 caps as England’s goalkeeper. England lost only nine of their 73 matches with Banks in goal
After his accident Gordon went into scouting, and managed non-league side Telford United.
In October 1977 he played for League of Ireland side St. Patrick’s Athletic F.C. He then went to play as a named superstar in the NASL for Fort Lauderdale Strikers alongside his old nemesis George Best.
Gordon Banks was an Inaugural Inductee to the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Keele University in February 2006.
In May 2006, Gordon Banks was the first legend to be inducted into a new Walk of Fame, by having a plaque installed in the pavement in front of Sheffield Town Hall.