Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

A goal­keep­ing leg­end

MEN­TION the name Banksy th­ese days and most peo­ple will think of the con­tro­ver­sial cam­era-shy grafitti artist whose provoca­tive so­cial com­men­tary work, once chis­elled out of his wall of choice, sells for mind-bog­gling prices.

Forty years ago, if you men­tioned the name Banksy the per­son you would have been talk­ing about would un­doubt­edly have been Eng­land’s World Cup win­ning goal­keeper Gor­don Banks, who was also very much an artist in his own field.

The orig­i­nal Ban­sky be­gan his ca­reer with Ch­ester­field be­fore he moved on to Le­ices­ter City, where he won a League Cup, ap­peared in two of the four un­suc­cess­ful FA Cup fi­nals in the Foxes’ his­tory and won 37 Eng­land caps.

Le­ices­ter, who had the highly promis­ing and am­bi­tious 17-year-old Peter Shilton on their books, shocked the 28-yearold Banks when they told him they were look­ing to the fu­ture and that they were pre­pared to lis­ten to of­fers for him.

On hear­ing that, by his own ad­mis­sion, he couldn’t get away from the club quickly enough and in April 1967 he signed for Stoke City for a fee of £52,000.

Le­ices­ter, with Shilton in goal, reached their fourth FA Cup fi­nal in 1969 but were rel­e­gated at the end of that same sea­son.

By 1972, Banks, who had been awarded an OBE two years be­fore, had taken his Eng­land ap­pear­ances to 73 and helped Stoke win their first and, to date, only ma­jor tro­phy – the League Cup.

That sea­son cul­mi­nated in him be­ing named as the Foot­ball Writ­ers’ Foot­baller of the Year for 1972, which was then the high­est in­di­vid­ual award of the day.

Only months af­ter, in Oc­to­ber 1972, Banks was in­volved in a hor­rific car crash which cost him the sight of his right eye and re­sulted in a £250 fine for dan­ger­ous driv­ing.

That rare er­ror of judge­ment also cost him his first-class foot­ball ca­reer just two months short of his 34th birth­day.

Af­ter months of re­hab, he frus­trat­ingly re­alised that his re­stricted vi­sion meant that he could not re­turn to top level foot­ball in this coun­try. How­ever, some four years af­ter his ac­ci­dent, hav­ing trained Stoke City’s youth side in the in­terim, his pe­riph­eral vi­sion had re­turned suf­fi­ciently well that he re­alised that he could play the game he loved again, al­beit at a lower level.

Banks de­cided to head to Amer­ica. He joined the Fort Lauderdale Strik­ers and per­formed so well that they not only won their league but he was also named North Amer­i­can Soc­cer League Goal­keeper of the Year for 1977. He spent two suc­cess­ful years with the Strik­ers be­fore fi­nally hang­ing up his gloves at the age of 41.

He re­turned to the UK to be­come first-team coach for Port Vale and later man­ager of Telford United but, as in the case of his con­tem­po­rary, the great Bobby Moore, to the eter­nal shame of the so-called “fam­ily of foot­ball” he was never of­fered a role com­men­su­rate to his great stand­ing in the game.

Banks kept goal for Eng­land 73 times be­tween 1963 and 1972 and was on the los­ing side just nine times with a re­mark­able 35 clean-sheets to his credit.

Cu­ri­ously, his first cap came against Scot­land and what proved to be his last was also against Eng­land’s old­est foes.

With one World Cup win­ner’s medal in his pocket and Eng­land well on course for a sec­ond fi­nal in Mex­ico in 1970, Banks fell ill with stom­ach prob-

lems on the eve of a quar­ter-fi­nal meet­ing with West Ger­many in Leon. The vom­it­ing and de­bil­i­tat­ing fall­out left him so weak that Peter Bonetti, of Chelsea, had to take his place.

In those days of fairly prim­i­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems (yes, kids, no mo­bile phones, emails or tex­ting!), Banks, obliv­i­ous to what had ac­tu­ally gone on, was watch­ing a re cord­ing of the game from his bed back in his ho­tel room and saw Eng­land go two goals up when the third goal­keeper in the squad, Alex Step­ney, who had been on the bench, came into his room. Step­ney had a fu­ne­real look on his face. Banks asked him what was up and Step­ney re­sponded by say­ing “Don’t you know? We lost.”

Banks could not be­lieve that Eng­land could ever lose a two-goal lead to any­one but they had – the Ger­mans had staged a re­mark­able come­back to win 3-2 af­ter ex­tra-time.

Nearly 50 years later, peo­ple are still lament­ing the loss of Eng­land’s undis­puted No.1 for that par­tic­u­lar match.

The fact that Banks had made what is re­garded as foot­ball’s great­est-ever save from Pele, the world’s best player, ear­lier in the tour­na­ment only adds to the co­nun­drum and con­spir­acy the­o­rists have had a field day ever since, claim­ing that Banks may have been spe­cially tar­get­ted and “got at”.

For the record, only five coun­tries de­feated Eng­land whilst Banks kept goal. They were: Scot­land 3; Brazil 2; West Ger­many 2; Ar­gentina 1 and Yu­goslavia 1.

Cu­ri­ously, up un­til fairly re­cently, goal­keep­ers were never val­ued in the same way as out­field play­ers and that may ex­plain why Banks spent his whole ca­reer play­ing for two of the top divi­sion’s less fash­ion­able clubs. That said, Le­ices­ter fin­ished in the top eight no fewer than four times dur­ing his time with them, on one oc­ca­sion (sea­son 1962-63) fin­ish­ing as high as fourth. Stoke once took ninth spot, although they spent most of his time there at the other end of the ta­ble. It was Brian Clough who first talked about a top goal­keeper (Peter Shilton in that in­stance) be­ing worth 12 points a sea­son (six wins back in the day), which was proved to be to­tally on point when his newly pro­moted Not­ting­ham For­est side won the First Divi­sion ti­tle in 1978. It is said that Bill Shankly tried to take Banks to Liver­pool when Le­ices­ter put him on the mar­ket, but that his board re­fused to come up with the £50,000 re­quired to se­cure his ser­vices. As we know, the An­field club re­cently paid a then world record sum for a goal­keeper of over £66m to sign Alis­son, left, from AS Roma de­spite the fact that the Brazil­ian in­ter­na­tional con­ceded no fewer than seven goals against them in their two epic Cham­pi­ons League semi-fi­nal en­coun­ters. Changed days in­deed. If Alis­son proves to be half as good and re­li­able as Banks, he will be con­sid­ered to have been worth the money – we shall just have to wait and see.

Th­ese days, Banks is bet­ter re­mem­bered for what he did in an Eng­land shirt than what his club teams ever achieved. His great traits were that he was a con­fi­dent, vo­cif­er­ous organiser who had quick re­flexes and dis­played su­perb agility.

He could catch a ball (which is rare th­ese days) and en­joyed full com­mand of his area of op­er­a­tion. There is no ques­tion that a player of his out­stand­ing abil­ity should have won many more do­mes­tic hon­ours.

Had he played against Poland at Wem­b­ley in 1973, it is highly likely that Eng­land would not have con­ceded the soft goal they did and would have reached the 1974 World Cup fi­nals in Ger­many. But, once again, we can only spec­u­late. Un­sur­pris­ingly for a man who had played in al­most 700 League and Cup matches as well as his nu­mer­ous in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ances and had kept goal since the age of 13, Banks picked up a cat­a­logue of in­juries, which in­cluded bro­ken and dis­lo­cated fin­gers and thumbs, frac­tures to wrist and el­bow, a bro­ken nose on two oc­ca­sions and at least half a dozen bouts of con­cus­sion.

The proud York­shire­man, fast ap­proach­ing his 81st birth­day, still car­ries him­self well and re­mains a mod­est, like­able in­di­vid­ual.

His place in foot­ball his­tory is as­sured in the knowl­edge that he never let club or coun­try down. His statue, which was un­veiled by his old ad­ver­sary Pele in 2008, fit­tingly stands out­side Stoke City’s Bri­tan­nia Sta­dium.

The very name Gor­don Banks OBE is a mark of true foot­ball ex­cel­lence.

On top of the world: Eng­land’s Gor­don Banks shows off the Jules Rimet Tro­phy and, in­set, the Stoke keeper punches clear against Manch­ester City

Old pals: Gor­don Banks and Brazil leg­end Pele show off a pic­ture of his fa­mous save

Hif full record for his coun­try is as fol­lows:

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