Most is said and written about one of the greatest goalkeepers the World have ever seen, the 1966 World Cup winner and The Euro 1968 Bronze medalist, passed away on the 12th of February, and will be heavily missed as one of those real icons of football.
The whole World shows their respect and condolences are coming from former teammates of those great Leicester City teams of the 60’s, from Stoke City, from Pelè and of course from former England players.
From his autobiography “Banksy” you can read about his early days, which is always interesting, knowing that life wasn’t really just a dance on roses. Growing up in Sheffield and being “missed” by the two teams of the City, Wednesday and United is a bit remarkable.
Banks started his professional career at Chesterfield, and firstly was recognized as a special goalkeeper with their youth side, surprisingly, reaching the 1956 Youth Cup final, playing Manchester United. Despite losing the final 4-3, Banks had been noticed.
Two years later Banks was given his first team debut, and a year after, after just 23 league games, Leicester City came knocking on the door and offered Chesterfield £7 000 for the promising man. The bid was accepted and Gordon Banks became a fox.
Matt Gillies who had gone from being a player, a coach, caretaker manager and after helping Leicester City to a “great escape” in the 1958-59 season, silently building the best team in the history of the club.
There are other eras at the club who can be said to have been great and successful, but the way Matt Gilles managed Leicester City over a 10 year period, made the club concrete and solid, and especially defensively being somewhat best in their trade.
Gordon Banks was the key in this balance, often being exposed by many great attacking players, such as Bobby Charlton, Jimmy Greaves, George Best and Denis Law to just mention a few Leicester City were up against.
During these great days of the 60’s no other Leicester City player represented England, but the club had other internationals such as Derek Dougan, Davie Gibson, Frank McLintock and Peter Rodrigues, who were playing for other home nations.
Gordon Banks was in goal for Leicester City during those early 60’s FA Cup finals against Tottenham and Manchester United, and he was also integral winning the League Cup in 1964 against Stoke, and ending runners up the year after playing Chelsea.
The ultimate challenge and greatest moment of his goalkeeping life came in the year of 1966, when he as a Leicester City player, represented England in the World Cup. We all know that England went on to win the final and Banks was the safest hands.
Matt Gilles had a young and sensational good goalkeeper on his books alongside Gordon Banks. The dilemma of keeping either Shilton or Banks finally made Gillies to decide, in 1967, to let Banks leave, with Stoke coming in, signing the England international for a fee of £50 000.
The strange fact is that Banks just continued to keep his form at a level that England manager Sir Alf Ramsey never saw any dilemma at all, for him Banks was always number one.
When England entered the World Cup in Mexico in 1970, Banks was a solid first choice and his save from Pele’s header will never die, it was magic.
Banks experienced a few set backs as well, firstly losing sight on one eye after a car accident that in real stopped his league career in England. The “stomach bug” that stopped him from playing the 1970 World Cup quarter finals.
But he was not a quitter and to see him doing a remarkable comeback in football, rightly said “soccer”, joining NASL outfit Fort Lauderdale Strikers and again showing the World what a remarkable goalkeeper he was.
The NASL at the time had some really good goalkeepers and the competition was stiff, but regardless of that Banks again showed his qualities, keeping the best goalkeeping record of any player in the days of the NASL, being voted goalkeeper of the year in 1977, conceding only 29 goals in 26 games.
Banks cannot be described as a journey man in football, but had a few short spells and guest appearances for clubs such as Cleveland Stokers (US), St Patrick Athletics (Ireland) and Hellenic Cape Town (South Africa).
After his playing days Banks were often seen at openings and special events, as a torch runner for the 2012 London Olympics and also present in Russia for the 2018 World Cup draws.
He is really one of the greatest, with a road in Stoke bearing his name, and the same can be said at Leicester City, where one club suit at the former arena Filbert Street was named after him. He is also described as a legend in his own home town, being part of Sheffield’s Walk of Fame.
A great goalkeeper and person is gone, he will be heavily missed, RIP Gordon Banks.