Gordon Banks - England's safest hands

Gordon Banks rivals Russian Lev Yashin as the greatest goalkeeper to have played in a World Cup.

Gordon Banks (R) was a World Cup winner with England in 1966.   -  Getty Images

He was referred to as Banks of England, for he was as safe between the goal posts as the legendary Bank of England is with money. Gordon Banks rivals Russian Lev Yashin as the greatest goalkeeper to have played in a World Cup.

Banks, lithe and masterly, was the central figure of England's World Cup triumph in 1966. He hadn't conceded a goal until the semifinal (fifth outing) against Portugal, that too a penalty taken by Eusebio, a banana shot that curled the other way. As they say, it takes one diamond to cut another!

Banks will forever be remembered for effecting what is known as the 'save of the century'. This was in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico against Brazil, the eventual champion, in the group phase at Guadalajara.

Jairzinho raced past the left flank, dashed to the line and centred perfectly where Pele met the ball, and headed it down and hard, on the bounce, inside the left post - the perfectionist that he was. So sure was Pele of converting it, that he was already screaming 'Goal!'

 

As it turned out, it wasn't. Banks, beaten early on, having moved the other way, regained balance and dived full length across the goal to fist the ball over the bar.

Pele went on to say later, "At that moment, I hated Banks more than any man in soccer. But when I cooled down I had to applaud him with my heart. It was the greatest save I'd ever seen."

A stomach ailment on the morning of the quarterfinal against West Germany - whom England had beaten in the '66 final - forced Banks to miss the crucial game and England failed to take advantage of a two-goal lead and lost 2-3.

Banks dependability at the post gave coach Sir Alf Ramsey the option to allow his backs to overlap.

Born in Sheffield, Banks joined third division side Chesterfield as a part-time professional in 1955. Four years later he moved to Leicester City, and in his very second season the side made the FA Cup final. The team emerged runner-up again in 1963, the year he won his first National call, against Scotland.

A car accident, which left his right eye blind, in 1972 forced him into retirement. A few months earlier he had been voted England's Player of the Year while also winning the League Cup with Stoke City.

His was a great career, having maintained 35 clean slates while allowing just 57 goals in 73 appearances for England. He was honoured with the OBE.

Banks was a good friend and an unselfish senior, who was always willing to help up-and-coming goalkeepers. Peter Shilton, who succeeded him in the National side, gained tremendously from his advice.

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