BANKS of England by name… and by nature.
In any roll call of goalkeeping legends you would be hard pushed to find a safer pair of hands than Gordon Banks OBE.
Russian icon Lev Yashin was once voted the Greatest goalkeeper of the 20th century, beating Banks into second place.
But Gordon, who died today, aged 81 had something Yashin never managed to get his massive mitts on… a world cup winners’ medal.
It was a source of enormous pride to the former Chesterfield, Leicester City and Stoke goalie that he was England’s custodian at Wembley on that never-to-be-forgotten day – July 30, 1966 – when he helped The Three Lions rule the world.
He loved the fact that a Gold Star is woven into the fabric of every England shirt these days to denote England’s status as former world champions.
Modern greats such as David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes all wore that gold star on their shirt with pride.
Gordon took enormous satisfaction from knowing he played his part in putting it there for every future generation of England player.
66 LEGEND DEAD – Gordon Banks passes away aged 81
We met at one of his local haunts nearly three years ago and nattered over a brew and biccies, just round the corner from his modest home in Madeley, Shropshire.
What struck me about this giant of the game was his humility, his humour and his love of the game which still burned within him.
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England had just exited Euro 2016, having been humiliated by Iceland – as far removed from Banks’ greatest triumph half a century before.
The papers had been full of pictures of Roy Hodgson’s shamed players, millionaires to a man, sloping off to holiday havens in Bermuda, the Caymen Islands and Dubai.
Banks plans for the afternoon? To mow the lawn at his family home!
Football’s riches were one of the few prizes which ever slipped through Banks’ fingers.
Far from poverty-stricken, he still decided to auction his world cup winners’ medal at Christie’s – using the £120,000 it went for to help his children buy their first homes.
I asked him the 66 thousand dollar question: “Who is really richer? You or Wayne Rooney?
“Be totally honest, Gordon. If I was to offer you a £3.5million mansion, similar holiday home somewhere exotic, a choice of Ferraris in the driveway and all the rest of the trappings — but you had to give up that day on July 30, 1966, what would you go for?”
The great man replied without a flicker of hesitation.
He said: “No bloody chance, July 30 wins every time.
“I would never give that up. This generation can have all their money and their millionaire lifestyles.
“But I have memories which have lasted me a lifetime — you cannot buy them.
“Every day, I can think back to 1966 if I want and remember things from every single day of that tournament. Not just the final, every day of the tournament.
“I remember the wonderful build-up to our first game against Uruguay, the expectation levels grew and grew and grew. The wonderful atmosphere inside and outside Wembley time we played, the crowd going wild after the Germany game when it was finally all over.
“Running on the pitch, passing the World Cup around afterwards.
“When that final whistle went, the emotions were just incredible.
“We’d got it, we had won the biggest trophy in football. We were world champions.
“It was wonderful. You knew you had sent the people in the stadium absolutely wild.
“You knew there were millions more watching on TV all over the country. The feeling that you had all that expectation on your shoulders — and you had delivered what the nation wanted.
“Going down Wembley Way afterwards and the crowd going berserk. Then arriving back at the team hotel and watching TV reports show folk in the fountains at Trafalgar Square.
“They were celebrating in the same way as when we won the Second World War.
“I would never give that up. This generation can have all their millionaire lifestyles — but I have memories which have lasted me a lifetime. No one can take them away.”
When Banks' career was cut short at age of 34 after car crash nearly blinded him
GORDON BANKS’ career was cut short after a car crash nearly blinded the World Cup-winning keeper.
Banks was driving home from Stoke’s Victoria Ground in his Ford Consul, after getting treatment on a minor injury in October 1972.
But as he went to overtake another vehicle, the he was involved in a head-on collision with a van.
He woke up in hospital and surgery had been carried out on his eyes.
Shards of glass had perforated his right eye and damaged the retinaand he knew then that his playing days were numbered aged just 34.
He was given a 50-50 chance of seeing again in his right eye.
He later recalled: “One day I leaned over to pick up a cup of tea on my bedside table and was shocked to grasp thin air. That’s when the reality of my situation hit home.
“I remember thinking if I can’t even get the angle right to pick up a cup of tea, how will I ever judge the flight and speed of a football again?”
After getting himself back to fitness throughout the rest of the season, Banks chatted to Stoke manager Tony Waddington and told his boss it was over.
Four years later, Banks went on to play in the North American Soccer League, where many of Europe’s most famous exports including George Best and Franz Beckenbauer played out the twighlights of their careers.
Banks played 37 games for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers before retiring with 558 club appearances to his name and 73 England caps.
Sadly, Gordon Banks was taken earlier today, after a period of illness.
At barely six-foot, Banks would have struggled to be picked up by a club in these days when six-foot-five seems to be the norm for most clubs when it comes to ‘keepers.
However there is no doubt at all.
The football world mourns the loss of a giant today.