Gordon Banks makes a spectacular save for Stoke City. Image courtesy Mirrorpix.
Gordon Banks makes a spectacular save for Stoke City. Image courtesy Mirrorpix.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, England’s World Cup-winning No. 1 was one of the inaugural inductees into the National Football Museum Football Hall of Fame.

Banks made a handful of appearances for his hometown club of Chesterfield before going on to appear almost 300 times for Leicester City. When a young Peter Shilton emerged at Leicester, Banks moved onto Stoke City, where over the course of nearly 200 more games he became a club hero. Despite winning the League Cup with each club, it is his performances for England that will go down in history.

In 1966, Banks didn’t concede a goal from open play on the way to the World Cup final (the great Eusebio’s semi-final penalty being the only time the ball found the England net prior to the famous Wembley game). Whilst Hurst, Charlton and Moore were winning the plaudits, the impressive Banks went about his business as keeper of the tournament.

When the reigning champions came to defend their crown in 1970, Banks was established as one of the world’s finest. It is perhaps his save in England’s 1-0 group stage loss to Brazil that secures his place in history. Diving low to his far right, Banks stretched to reach the great Pelé’s goalbound header. With the Brazillian forward already celebrating what appeared to be a certain goal, Banks miraculously managed to not only to get a hand to the ball, but to flick it up, over the bar and to safety. It was one of the defining images from arguably the greatest World Cup tournament.  Pelé later said “it was the greatest save I’ve ever seen”, and it is still known as ‘the save of the century.

England negotiated their World Cup group, but went out to rivals West Germany in the quarter finals.  Before the game, Banks was struck down by a debilitating stomach-bug and was unable to play. Manager Alf Ramsey summed up the importance of Banks after the match he asked “If anyone had to be ill, why did it have to be him?”

Banks was forced to retire in 1973 after a car accident cost him the use of an eye. Despite the disability, 5 years later, at the age of 39, he returned to playing with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the North American Soccer League. He was voted Goalkeeper of the Season.

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