England’s World Cup-winning goalkeeper at the 1966 World Cup Gordon Banks has passed away at the age of 81.
The former England shot-stopper was regarded as one of the finest goalkeepers of all-time in the sport and was a key component of the side that become world champions on home soil back in 1966, still being the only English goalkeeper to play in a World Cup final.
"It is with great sadness that we announce that Gordon passed away peacefully overnight," his family said.
"We are devastated to lose him but we have so many happy memories and could not have been more proud of him."
Banks’ professional career began in 1958 when he, as as 21-year-old, made his professional debut for Chesterfield in the Third Division and quickly caught the eye of team’s at a higher level, joining Leicester City before the 1959-60 season.
Immediately Banks was the first choice goalkeeper for the First Division side, eventually going on to make 356 appearances for the Foxes between 1959-67. It was during his time at Filbert Street that Banks also received international recognition, receiving a call-up to the England U23 side in 1961, earning two caps, before then being called up to the senior side for the first time in 1963.
One year later he helped Leicester win the 1964 League Cup, whilst also then establishing himself as Alf Ramsey’s first choice goalkeeper for England just in time for the 1966 World Cup.
It’s well documented what followed, as Banks helped England to World Cup glory at Wembley, beating Germany 4-2 in the final after extra time. Banks kept three straight clean sheets during the group stages, before then also shutting out Argentina in the quarter-final, helping him to be named in the FIFA World Cup All-Star team.
In 1967, he left Leicester to join Stoke City, going on to make a further 250 appearances for the Potters and won his second League Cup winners’ medal in 1972 when they beat Chelsea 2-1 in the final.
However, Banks’ career in England was brought to an abrupt end when he lost sight in one eye following a car accident, though he did then go and play for Fort Lauderdale Strikers in 1977 and 1978 in America, while also making one appearance for St. Patrick’s Athletic in Ireland.
He leaves an incredible legacy
To this day Banks is still regarded by most as the greatest goalkeeper to ever play for the Three Lions, still being the only one to have appeared for England in a World Cup final. Peter Shilton and Jordan Pickford are the only other two to feature in a semi-final.
The former Leicester and Stoke ‘keeper may not have won the accolades that his ability perhaps deserved, winning just two League Cups in his club career, but will forever be associated with football’s greatest prize.
On an individual level, Banks was certainly recognised for his ability and performances, winning FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year in six consecutive years from 1966 to 1971 and was the FWA Player of the Year in 1972. Banks was also named in the PFA Team of the Century in 2007.
He will forever be remembered for one of the greatest saves of all-time, made even greater by the fact it came from Brazilian superstar Pele. England’s number one somehow managed to tip Pele’s downwards header around the post when it appeared destined for the bottom corner.
In an exchange afterwards, the pair and Bobby Moore discussed the save.
"I thought that was a goal." (Pelé)
"You and me both." (Banks)
"You're getting old, Banksy, you used to hold on to them." (Moore)
"They won't remember me for winning the World Cup, it'll be for that save. That's how big a thing it is. People just want to talk about that save," Banks later said regarding what was a defining moment of his career.
There are plenty of reasons why Gordon Banks will go down as one of England's greatest ever players and sportsman. He produced when it really mattered on the pitch during the entirety of his footballing career but what really helped him stand out from the rest was his likeable nature and personality. Banks always had time for his fans and it's something that really helped endear himself to everyone - the very definition of the word legend. Below we've included some of the most touching tributes to the great man from social media: