Gordon Banks: The World Cup hero who made the ‘greatest ever save’

His status as an all-time great may have been sealed at the 1966 World Cup, but it was the save Gordon Banks produced to deny Pele four years later which became his defining moment on the international stage.

The goalkeeper's spectacular stop in a group-stage clash with Brazil during England's defence of the trophy in Mexico is widely regarded as one of the greatest saves of all time.

40 PHOTOS
Gordon Banks
See Gallery
Gordon Banks
File photo dated 28-06-1966 of Leicester City goalkeeper Gordon Banks.
File photo dated 27-10-2015 of Former Stoke City goalkeeper Gordon Banks.
File photo dated 05-01-2016 of Former England and World Cup winning players (left to right) George Cohen, Gordon Banks, Martin Peters and Sir Geoff Hurst with the Jules Rimet trophy.
File photo dated 12-05-2013 of Former Stoke City goalkeeper Gordon Banks holds the Jules Rimet trophy as he is awarded a a Stoke City shirt before the game.
File photo dated 05-05-1965 of Gordon Banks jumps to make a save in the match with Hungary at Wembley.
File photo dated 05-05-1965 of Gordon Banks jumps to make a save in the match with Hungary at Wembley.
File photo dated 12-07-2008 of Former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks (centre) with Archbishop Desmond Tutu (left) and former Brazilian star Pele.
File photo dated 10-07-2008 of Former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks.
File photo dated 04-05-1972 of Gordon Banks, the Stoke and England goalkeeper after he received the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year award for 1972.
File photo dated 04-03-2004 of Former International soccer players England goal keeper, Gordon Banks (left) with a picture of his famous save from Brazil striker Pele (right).
File photo dated 16-06-2004 of Model Nell McAndrew and 1966 World Cup England goalkeeper Gordon Banks at the unveiling of the new Butlins Redcoat 'strip'.
File photo dated 30-07-1966 of the two teams line up before the match: (left to right) West Germany's Horst-Dieter Hottges, Wolfgang Overath, Siggi Held, Helmut Haller, Wolfgang Weber, Lothar Emmerich, Willi Schulz, Franz Beckenbauer, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, Hans Tilkowski and Uwe Seeler, linesman Tofik Bakhramov, referee Gottfried Dienst, linesman Karol Galba, England's Bobby Moore, George Cohen, Alan Ball, Gordon Banks, Roger Hunt, Ray Wilson, Nobby Stiles, Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, Jack Charlton.
File photo dated 14-02-1996 of Former England goalie Gordon Banks with his daughter Wendy in the goalmouth at Stoke City Football club after her marriage at the ground today to Shaun Beech.
A statue of former Stoke City and England goalkeeper Gordon Banks outside the ground before the game
Gordon Banks poses for a photograph during the Football Writers Association Tribute night at The Savoy, London.
Gordon Banks who receives the trophy on behalf of Pele during the Football Writers Association Tribute Night at The Savoy, London.
World Cup 2018 draw ambassadors Gordon Banks during the FIFA 2018 World Cup draw at The Kremlin, Moscow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo Picture date: Friday December 1, 2017. See PA story SOCCER World Cup. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTICTIONS: Editorial use only. No transmission of sound or moving images. No use with any unofficial third party logos. No altering or adjusting of photographs.
World Cup 2018 draw ambassadors Nikita Simonyan (left) and Gordon Banks during a media call at the World Trade Centre Moscow, Moscow.
George Cohen (left) and Gordon Banks inside Wembley Stadium, London to help launch the film Bobby about captain Bobby Moore and England's World Cup victory 50 years ago this year.
George Cohen (left) and Gordon Banks inside Wembley Stadium, London to help launch the film Bobby about captain Bobby Moore and England's World Cup victory 50 years ago this year.
Gordon Banks during a Football Pools Fives event at Tupton High School, Chesterfield.
Gordon Banks MBE greets ex-footballer for Germany Hans Tilkowski at Wembley Stadium, Tuesday March 21, 2006. Seven of England's 1966 World Cup winning team have returned to the scene of their triumph at Wembley - along with 11 members of the West German squad who they beat to lift the trophy. The event has been arranged to mark the 40th anniversary of English soccer's greatest achievement and as anticipation builds before the World Cup in Germany this summer. See PA story SPORT England. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Photo credit should read: Andrew Parsons/PA
Nell McAndrew and Gordon Banks launch the new Butlins Redcoat developed with the help of the British Fashion Council, Westminster Boathouse, London. Doug Peters/allactiondigital.com
Seven of England's victorious 1966 World Cup winning team (L 2 R) George Cohen, Sir Geoff Hurst (top), Alan Ball (B), Gordon Banks, Jack Charlton (top), Martin Peters and Roger Hunt, with a replica Jules Rimet trophy at the launch of the National Lottery. * Instants scratchcard game 'Game of Two Halves'.On an open top bus outside the central London hotel where they celebrated beating West Germany 35 years ago,
Legendary England goalkeeper Gordon Banks at Maine Road to have casts of his hands made for The Walk of Fame
Gordon Banks watches as Sir Stanley Matthews' funeral cortege leaves St Peter's church in Stoke. Former England full-back Jimmy Armfield led the tributes at the funeral, as thousands of mourners stood outside the church as the service was relayed to them via loudspeakers.
19/4/95. Gordon Banks Testimonial Leicester City v International XI ...Gordon Banks with Gary Lineker before tonights game
Gordon Banks tries an American Football kit on for size at his new home ground in Fort Lauderdale
Gordon Banks, England goalkeeper
Gordon Banks, 33, the Stoke and England goalkeeper, at London's Cafe Royal after he received the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year award for 1972.
Gordon Banks, Stoke City goalkeeper
England's Bobby Moore (r) looks on as Scotland's Hugh Curran (c) challenges England goalkeeper Gordon Banks (l)
Stoke City goalkeeper Gordon Banks shows off his greatest assets.
England's Gordon Banks
(L-R) Stoke City captain Gordon Banks shakes hands with Arsenal captain Frank McLintock
(L-R) England goalkeeper Gordon Banks shakes hands with Eusebio after the Portuguese legend (in London to present the Rothmans Golden Boot awards) took a few penalties against him at Loftus Road
Gordon Banks, Stoke City
England goalkeeper Gordon Banks leads the team out at Wembley
England Team Group Back Row: Mullery, Keith Newton, Jackie Charlton, Gordon Banks, George Corker, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton. Front Row: Hunt, Ball, Hurst, Peters
The two teams line up before the match: (l-r) West Germany's Horst-Dieter Hottges, Wolfgang Overath, Siggi Held, Helmut Haller, Wolfgang Weber, Lothar Emmerich, Willi Schulz, Franz Beckenbauer, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, Hans Tilkowski and Uwe Seeler, linesman Tofik Bakhramov, referee Gottfried Dienst, linesman Karol Galba, England's Bobby Moore, George Cohen, Alan Ball, Gordon Banks, Roger Hunt, Ray Wilson, Nobby Stiles, Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, Jack Charlton
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Banks, who has died at the age of 81, flung himself to his right and, in a feat which seemed to defy the laws of physics, somehow managed with one hand not only to keep Pele's powerful downward header out, but also flick the ball over the bar.

The moment enhanced yet further the reputation of a man who, as an ever present in the triumphant 1966 campaign, made it through to the closing stages of the semi-final before conceding a goal – and even then was only beaten by a penalty from Portugal's Eusebio.

Banks, left,with a picture of his famous save from Brazil striker Pele
Banks, left,with a picture of his famous save from Brazil striker Pele (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Along with a World Cup-winner's medal, Banks' 73-cap CV featured six FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year awards.

It also showed notable success at club level, with two League Cup wins, with Leicester in 1964 and Stoke in 1972.

Not bad for someone who was discarded by Rawmarsh Welfare as a 15-year-old after two games that had seen him let in 15 goals.

Born in Sheffield in 1937, Banks' time playing for Sheffield schoolboys was also inauspicious, dropped aged 14 after two games without explanation.

He left school in 1952 and went on to work as a coal bagger and then an apprentice bricklayer.

His return to football happened almost by accident, turning up to watch local side Millspaugh and being summoned to play in goal after their regular goalkeeper failed to turn up – and doing so in his working trousers.

Banks' performances for Millspaugh led to him being recruited by Yorkshire League outfit Rawmarsh.

His time with them was brief and chastening, playing in 12-2 and 3-1 defeats before being told not to turn up again.

England captain Bobby Moore, left, parades the World Cup around Wembley alongside Martin Peters, second left, Geoff Hurst, right, and Gordon Banks
England captain Bobby Moore, left, parades the World Cup around Wembley alongside Martin Peters, second left, Geoff Hurst, right, and Gordon Banks (PA)

But after returning to Millspaugh, he soon attracted interest once again, being offered a trial with Chesterfield's youth team towards the end of the 1952-53 season, which was successful.

It was certainly not all plain sailing from there – Banks conceded 122 goals over 1954-55 with Chesterfield's reserves – but he was part of the Spireites side that reached the 1956 FA Youth Cup final.

And after making his first-team debut for the Third Division club in November 1958, a move to the top flight came quickly, with Leicester signing him at the end of that season.

In the six years that followed, Banks helped the Foxes reach four cup finals, suffering FA Cup defeats in 1961 to Tottenham and 1963 to Manchester United, celebrating his first piece of silverware in 1964 with victory over Stoke in the League Cup, and then losing to Chelsea in that competition in 1965.

Banks' England career also began during that period, his senior debut coming in 1963 against Scotland at Wembley.

That game finished in a disappointing 2-1 reverse, but three years later he tasted the ultimate glory at the same venue, lifting the World Cup after the defeat of West Germany at the end of a tournament in which he had kept clean sheets against Uruguay, Mexico, France and Argentina.

Despite him having reached that pinnacle of footballing achievement, Leicester, who had a teenage Peter Shilton on their books, opted to sell Banks to Stoke as the following season came to a close.

He was 29 at that point – and would subsequently prove he still had plenty to offer.

Gordon Banks stands next to his statue at the Britannia Stadium
Gordon Banks stands next to his statue at the Britannia Stadium (Dave Thompson/PA)

The famous save in Guadalajara in 1970 was the most obvious example, with Banks' worth underlined as England lost their quarter-final to West Germany 3-2, with their number one absent due to illness. Conspiracy theories abounded that Banks had been poisoned to take him out of the match, but there was no evidence to support them and the man himself gave them no credence.

There was also a memorable stop for the Potters en route to them winning the 1972 League Cup, Banks keeping out a penalty from fellow 1966 hero Geoff Hurst in the semi-finals against West Ham before Chelsea were overcome in the final.

Banks, by then an OBE, ended that season as The Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year, but his playing days were almost done. A car crash in October 1972 led to him losing the sight in his right eye and he retired in the summer of 1973.

He still went on to have a short, successful spell in goal for American side Fort Lauderdale Strikers, despite his visual impairment. He coached at Stoke and Port Vale and was boss of non-league Telford, with his sacking in 1980 after just one full season in charge convincing him he did not want to carry on in management.

The sad news reaches us that legendary former Spireite Gordon Banks has passed away. Gordon, who started his career at Chesterfield, was of course part of England's 1966 World Cup-winning team. Our thoughts are with Gordon's family and friends. pic.twitter.com/bFGzevFIsz

— Chesterfield FC (@ChesterfieldFC) February 12, 2019

Banks was subsequently involved in the running of a Leicester-based corporate hospitality company for a period, and became a member of the three-man football pools panel.

In 2002, Stoke named him as club president, and a statue of a smiling Banks holding the Jules Rimet trophy aloft was unveiled at their ground in 2008, an occasion attended by his old friend and rival Pele.

Banks revealed in 2015 he was fighting kidney cancer for a second time, having lost a kidney to the disease 10 years earlier.

He is survived by his wife Ursula, whom he met during his national service in Germany in 1955, and their three children, Robert, Wendy and Julia.

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS