England hero Banks dies aged 81
Former England international Gordon Banks passes away
FIFA World Cup winner ranks among the goalkeeping greats
He is responsible for one of the World Cup's most iconic saves
England’s 1966 FIFA World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks has passed away at the age of 81.
Held in the highest regard in his homeland as the man who helped the Three Lions to victory on home soil, his acrobatics in between the posts have been fondly remembered for over half a century.
“I will never ever forget the feeling of [winning the tournament],” Banks told FIFA.com in 2017, “and I know it means so much to so many in England, from those who were there and plenty who have been born since.”
While his slender frame meant he was not the most imposing of goalkeepers, Banks's movement and agility saw him command his area. After success in 1966, he would also go on to appear at Mexico 1970, where he pulled off one of the most iconic saves in World Cup history to deny Pele. “They won't remember me for winning the World Cup," Banks reflected. "It will be for that save."
"From the moment I headed it, I was sure it had gone in,” recalled Pele. "I had already began to jump to celebrate the goal. Then I looked back and I couldn't believe it hadn't gone in."
FIFA President Gianni Infantino paid tribute to the England legend. “It is with great sadness to learn of the death of Gordon today. As one of the finest goalkeepers in football history, Gordon will not only be remembered for his performances on the pitch but also as a champion and gentleman off the pitch.
“As a member of England’s 1966 FIFA World Cup winning team, Gordon will always be remembered as a legend and icon of the game. On behalf of FIFA and the whole football community, I would like to extend my sincerest condolences to Gordon’s friends and family.”
One of the draw assistants at the Russia 2018 Final Draw, Banks shone at both Leicester City and Stoke City, making over 600 appearances between both clubs and winning the League Cup with the both. “We are devastated to lose him but we have so many happy memories and could not have been more proud of him,” the Potters said in a statement.
Despite his success, Banks was a late bloomer in many senses. Aged 18, he was still working as a bricklayer and was almost 22 by the time he made his top-flight debut; Peter Shilton, Banks’s successor as Leicester and England No1, made his own First Division bow as a 16-year-old.
He made his international debut in 1963 and though he was not the headline-grabber in a high-scoring 4-2 victory in the Final of the 1966 FIFA World Cup, the contribution he made to the hosts’ conquest throughout the tournament was irrefutable. Indeed, it took 442 minutes, until the end of the semi-final against Portugal, for Banks to finally concede his first goal, with a Eusebio penalty ending his seven-match sequence without being beaten, which remains an England record.
Despite a car crash in 1972, causing him to lose sight in one eye and meaning he never played top-flight football again, Banks was named the second-best keeper of the 20th century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics. Only Lev Yashin stood above him, testament to a footballing great who will be sorely missed.