Friday, December 7, 2007

Gordon Banks

England has produced a long line of goalkeeping legends over the years. The best of them all was Gordon Banks. Born in Sheffield, he joined third division side Chesterfield as a part-time pro in 1955. After four years, Banks was ready for bigger tasks and joined Leicester City in 1959 for £7000. It was at Filbert Street he started to show his class. Banks and Leicester reached the final of the FA Cup in his second season, but lost to Spurs who completed The Double that year.

Having lost another FA Cup final in 1963, Gordon finally could pick up a winner’s medal in the League Cup the following year. Banks was in the England team by now and started to make his name world wide. England hosted the World Cup in the summer of 1966. Banks experienced his finest weeks as a footballer when his team reached the final having just conceded one goal, a penalty from Portugal’s Eusebio. He really lived up to his nickname Banks of England. Gordon was as safe between the posts as money in the bank of England! After a dramatic final against West Germany, England could lift the World Cup for the first and so far only time. Banks was the best goalkeeper in the tournament.

England travelled to Mexico to defend their title in 1970. If Banks was famous for winning the World Cup in 1966, he would become even more so after this tournament. Much thanks to an incident called ‘The Save of the Century’. England played Brazil in the first round and a Jairzinho cross from the right was met perfectly by Pelé who headed it down towards Gordon’s bottom right corner. As the ball hit the ground in front of the goalline, he managed to flick it with his outstreched right hand as it came up. The ball rose over the bar for a corner. Despite this save, England lost 1-0 and later would lose 3-2 against West Germany in the quarterfinal when Banks was sidelined with an injury.

It was a car accident which made him blind on his right eye that caused his retirement in 1972. Just months earlier he had been voted England’s Player of the Year and also won another League Cup with his club Stoke City. Gordon Banks kept 35 clean sheets and only let in 57 goals in his 73 appearances for England. A proud record for one of the greatest goalkeepers the world has ever seen.