ENGLAND’S WORLD CUP-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks, who thrilled WA fans when playing in Perth in 1973, has died. He passed away on February 12 at the age of 81 following a battle with cancer.
Banks played 73 times for England, including being a hero in the successful 1966 World Cup side and making global headlines with a stunning save from Pele in the 1970 finals in Mexico.
In a group game in Guadalajara, Brazil’s Pele met a cross from Jairzinho with a downward, bouncing header, and was already shouting “Goal!” when Banks miraculously hurled himself across his goal, reached the ball with a flailing right arm, and turned it over his crossbar.
“As soon as I got my hand to it, I thought it was going in the top corner,” recalled Banks later. “But after I’d landed on the hard floor, I looked up and saw the ball bounce behind the net and that’s when I said to myself: ‘Banksy, you lucky prat’.”
For his part, Pelé was always slightly miffed that Banks’s save remained such a talking point for so many years afterwards. “I have scored more than a thousand goals in my life and the thing people always talk to me about is the one I didn’t score,” he said.
Sheffield-born Banks began his senior career with Chesterfield in 1958 and went on to join Leicester the following year. He appeared in 293 league games with Leicester and played a crucial role in their reaching the FA Cup finals of 1961 and 1963, both of which were lost. In 1964 he helped his side to their first major competition win – a League Cup final victory against Stoke City.
In April 1967, however, Leicester had uncovered another fine goalkeeper in Peter Shilton, and felt able to sell Banks to Stoke for £52,500. At the age of 34 he featured in Stoke’s 1972 League Cup final win against Chelsea – still the club’s only major honour – and in the same season he was voted Player of the Year in England.
The majority of the League Cup-winning side, including Banks and fellow 1966 World Cup team members Geoff Hurst and George Eastham, played an international challenge game against the WA State side in front of 15,000 fans at Perry Lakes Stadium in May, 1973.
Stoke won 3-0 , with two goals from Hurst and one from Stewart Jump, but only after getting a testing work-out from the West Australian part-timers.
Banks had to be alert as WA forced seven corners in the first half and Ray Ilott, Dave Brady and John O’Connell turned in fine performances that stretched the visitors at times. One O’Connell shot from outside the box had Banks at full stretch to save. “It wasn’t quite a Pele save, but close to it,” he remembered.
The WA side was: Mike Palmer, Dave Brady, Jim Sambrook, Gary Mateljan, Hugh Miller (capt), John O’Connell, Bill Hicks, Eric Marocchi, Bobby Hynd, Jeff Williams, Ray Ilott. Res: Peter Mitchell, Chrtis Lovatsis, Jeff Ruellan, Alex Genovese, Mike McKinlay.
Banks performance against WA was all the more meritorious as he had only one good eye, having been blinded in his right eye when he was involved in a traffic accident in October, 1972.
The accident restricted his playing career. He took a coaching job with Stoke, but in 1977 he made a comeback in the then fashionable North American Soccer League with Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
Banks helped Fort Lauderdale to win the title in his first season there – conceding only 29 goals in 26 games – and was voted the league’s goalkeeper of the season. He was joined in Florida by George Best the following year, and played another 11 games in the 1978 season before retiring.
PIC ONE: Stoke’s 1972 League Cup winning side. PIC TWO: Gordon Banks and team-mates celebrate the 1966 World Cup success. PIC THREE: Banks and Pele laugh and show off a pic of the famous save.