Posted: 2/14/2019


        As an English football fan, Gordon Banks has a special place in my heart. The England goalkeeper died this week in Stoke at the age of 81 after a long illness.

          He was the son of a bookmaker, then illegal, and tragedy struck when his disabled brother was mugged for the days takings and was badly injured and died a few weeks later. Gordon's first job was bagging coal. In those days we had bags of coal delivered by the coal truck to light our fires. He signed a part time contract with Chesterfield FC for £3.00 a week and later signed full time for £20.00 a week at Leicester City. While there he got capped for England-73 times in total and played 628 times in The Football League. Despite being a World Cup winner he was told there was no future at The Foxes when Peter Shilton took his place. He was denied a bonus for his lengthy stay and joined Stoke City under Tony Waddington. who paid him  the £2,000.00 bonus he had asked for in Leicester.

           He received a CBE for services to the game but not a knigthood like Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst and Alf Ramsey.   He was supposed to later get knoghted but the civil servants lost the paperwork.

          I watched all 6 of his matches at Wembley for England in 1966 where he wore the yellow jersey. 4 years later in Estadio Jalisco in Guadelajara I watched his three group matches including the 1-0 loss to Brazil, where he wore blue, and that incredible save from Pele's header.  In 1987 I visited Pele's house in Santos, Brazil and in the study is that famous photo. I was up in the Press Box near the TV camera angle that showed the save of the century. 

         He was sick the morning of the Quarter Final extra time defeat to West Germany 3-2 where Peter Bonetti took his place. It was as hot as hell that day where I watched in the sun without any shade at Estadio Nou Camp in Leon. I flew to Mexico City the next day from Guadalajara sitting next to Sir Alf Ramsey.

        His wife Ursula was German but supported her husband at Wembley. Up until 1966 The FA had to purchase Bukta uniforms from a local stockists with a 20% discount until Charles Humphries of UMBRO (hUMBROthers)(brothers) did a deal with 15 of the 16 finalists(except North Korea) to provide uniforms and warm ups. Before the final Adidas offered the England players £1,000.00 each to wear their shoes at Wembley. All accepted except Banks who had made a similar deal with PUMA. I visited their hotel, Hendon Hall.on the morning of the final and left two posters of the squad in a rolled up cardboard canister with stamps. My school mate Jimmy Armfield agreed to have the squad sign them both and send to my home. The morning after the match I took a flight to New York City, so would have missed a replay.

            West Germany had to play in Adidas without any extra fees. I think England were paid £40.00 a match. After the final The FA offered £22,000 to the winning squad which the players agreed to share with the whole squad, £1,000.00 each.

            In 1972 Banks finished up in a ditch when his Ford Consul hit another car. He lost an eye and it seemed that his career was over after being named FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year 6 times.  Howeve, r Ron Newman signed him up for Ft Lauderdale Strikers in the NASL alongside Teofilo Cubillas, Georg Best and Gerd Muller and he was named NASL Goalkeeper of the Year.

       In 2001 he sold his World Cup winners medal at Christie's auction house in London for £124,750.00 which he used to buy the first houses for his three children  Julie, Robert and Wendy. Well done.

          What a player, what a man, what a smile.