Football: England's World Cup-winning keeper Gordon Banks dead at 81

Football: England's World Cup-winning keeper Gordon Banks dead at 81

2018 FIFA World Cup Draw
Gordon Banks during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Draw at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia, on Dec 1, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

STOKE-ON-TRENT: Gordon Banks, the goalkeeper in England's 1966 World Cup-winning team, has died at the age of 81, his former club Stoke City said on Tuesday (Feb 12).

Banks won 73 caps for England between 1963 and 1972 and made nearly 200 appearances for Stoke before his playing career was brought to an end in a car crash that cost him his sight in one eye.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers to have played the game, Banks will probably be best remembered for the diving stop he made to deny Brazil's Pele at the 1970 World Cup, which later became known as the "save of the century".

"It is with great sadness that we announce that Gordon passed away peacefully overnight," Banks' family said in a statement posted on Stoke's official website.

"We are devastated to lose him but we have so many happy memories and could not have been more proud of him."

Banks played every game in the 1966 World Cup including the 4-2 victory over West Germany in the final at Wembley - the only time England has won the world title.

Four years later though, in Mexico, he produced one of the most outstanding saves in the history of the tournament in a group game in which Brazil beat England 1-0.

Pele rose to head a cross from the byline by right-winger Jairzinho, thundering the header down towards Banks' right hand post.

The ball appeared to be past Banks, but his agility and strength saw him get down and palm it high and wide to safety.

Thirty-eight years later, Pele travelled to Stoke to unveil a statue to Banks and recalled the save.

Pele and Gordon Banks
 In this Mar 4, 2004 file photo Brazilian soccer legend Pele, right, presents former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks with a photograph showing Banks saving a header from Pele in the 1970 World Cup, at a press conference in London, to mark FIFA's 100 year anniversary. (Photo: AP/Max Nash, File)

"From the moment I headed it, I was sure it had gone in," he said.

"After I headed the ball, I had already began to jump to celebrate the goal. Then I looked back and I couldn't believe it hadn't gone in. 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.

Banks recalled the moment modestly as a piece of good fortune.

"As soon as I got my hand to it, I thought it was going in the top corner," he said.

"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: Banksy, you lucky prat."

Gordon Banks clears the ball
England's goalkeeper Gordon Banks (right) clears the ball from the head of Portugal's Jose Augusto during the World Cup semi-final played at Wembley, London, on Jul 26, 1966.  (Photo: AP/Bippa, File)

Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in the 4-2 win over West Germany in the World Cup final at Wembley, tweeted a fulsome tribute to his former team-mate.

"Very sad to hear the news that Gordon has died. One of the very greatest," tweeted 77-year-old Hurst.

"Thinking especially of Ursula, Julia, Wendy and Robert. Sad for football, Stoke City and for England fans. Will be very sadly missed."

READ: From Pele to Hurst, world's best were foiled by Banks

'HE HAD GOOSEBUMPS'

The Sheffield-born Banks began his career at Chesterfield in 1958 and moved to Leicester City the following year. He won his first England cap in 1963, four years before he joined Stoke.

Banks is the latest of the 1966 team to pass away.

Captain Bobby Moore, the baby of the team Alan Ball and Ray Wilson preceded him whilst several such as Nobby Stiles and Martin Peters suffer from Alzheimer's.

Bobby Moore and Gordon Banks
Bobby Moore leads out England followed by Gordon Banks. (Photo: Reuters/Action Images)

Another former Leicester and England legend Gary Lineker - albeit from a later generation - also tweeted his appreciation of Banks, whose sole trophies at club level were two League Cups, one piece with Stoke and Leicester.

"Oh no. Gordon Banks, an absolute hero of mine, and countless others, has died," tweeted Lineker.

"@England's World Cup winner was one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, and such a lovely, lovely man. #RIPGordon."

Stoke City chairman Peter Coates said Banks - who played 250 times for The Potters after he joined from Leicester in 1967 - had not been in good health for several weeks.

"We've been expecting his, he has been poorly for a number of weeks but it's a very sad day for us, we love him so much," said Coates.

"He made his home in Stoke, and was very much part of the fabric of the club. You don't get too many like him, and he was immensely modest for all talent.

"He told me when they walked out at Wembley for the final, and he had goose-bumps, he had never seen anything like it."

Banks retired in 1973 following the car crash, aged only 33, but four years later he returned to play in the North American Soccer League with Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

Peter Shilton, the former England goalkeeper who made a record 125 appearances for his country and like Banks played for Leicester and Stoke, tweeted: "I’m devastated - today Ive lost my hero our condolences to his family RIP Gordon".

Soon after Banks' death was announced, football fans and others began taking flowers and scarves to the life-size statue of him outside the Stoke City stadium. Some touched the statue in reverence, or wiped away tears.

Around the city, where Banks is a revered figure and was often seen at charity and football events, flags were lowered at public buildings, and local radio talk-shows were inundated with calls remembering him.

For some, it rankled that Banks was never awarded a knighthood.

"Even though they never knighted him, he was always a Sir to us, and he always will be," said Glen Rushton, 67, leaving a wreath at the statue.

The German Football Association (DFB) paid tribute to Banks on, saying on Twitter: "A fierce opponent and a good man. Rest in peace, Gordon Banks."

Source: Agencies/ec

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