LONDON, Feb 12 — Gordon Banks’ immense standing in the game was reflected by the mass of tributes that flooded in on the announcement England’s 1966 World Cup-winning goalkeeper had died aged 81, led by Bobby Charlton.
Charlton, the driving force in the ‘66 team, led the praise, saying “I was proud to call him a team-mate”.
Banks, who died in his sleep aged 81 yesterday, may have brought football home with a 4-2 humbling of West Germany on that gilded afternoon at Wembley, yet he is perhaps better known for another exploit.
His save from Brazilian legend Pele’s downward header in the 1970 group clash has him enshrined as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time.
Charlton, who like Banks and the late Bobby Moore played in both the 1966 and 1970 World Cups, said: “Obviously we shared that great day in 1966 but it was more than that.
“Even though I was on the pitch and have seen it many times since, I still don’t know how he saved that header from Pele.”
Current England manager Gareth Southgate paid his own heartfelt tribute of a man whose greatness on the pitch was rivalled by being a “gentleman” off it.
Southgate — who reignited the kind of modesty of spirit and fairplay engendered by the 1966 side that has been largely missing in England teams since that era — said he had enjoyed spending time with an “all-time great”.
“It was particularly special to be with him at a Football Writers’ tribute dinner last year and wish him well on his 80th birthday,” opined Southgate.
“Gordon spoke to the room about that incredible save from Pele against Brazil back in 1970 and moments like that from his remarkable World Cup-winning career will continue to linger long in the memory.”
The Germany team’s official English-language Twitter feed showed it had long forgotten the bitter taste of defeat in saluting the 73-times capped goalkeeper.
“A fierce opponent and a good man. Rest in peace, Gordon Banks #DieMannschaft,” it tweeted.
By contrast the England team website displayed a stiff upper lip attitude in its tweet.
“We’re deeply saddened to hear that Gordon Banks, our #WorldCup-winning goalkeeper, has passed away,” it tweeted along with condolences to his family.
England’s present number one Everton’s Jordan Pickford — who was a pivotal figure at last year’s World Cup, especially in the penalty shootout win over Colombia — tweeted the save from Pele.
“One of the greatest saves of all time. RIP Gordon Banks,” tweeted Pickford.
“A true legend of the game.”
One of Pickford’s predecessors at Everton, Welsh icon Neville Southall, was coached by Banks, who retired from the game in 1973 having lost an eye in a car crash in October 1972.
“He taught me for a bit. He had an incredible knowledge of goalkeeping, but more than that, he was a gentleman,” tweeted Southall.
“He was so laid-back, so professional and a model goalkeeper. He was a model man too. He changed people’s perceptions of goalkeeping.”
Football’s global governing body Fifa sent its condolences.
“Once a champion, always a champion We are deeply sorry to hear of the death of @England World Cup winner @thegordonbanks,” it tweeted.
“He was one of the game’s greatest goalkeepers, a provider of stunning World Cup memories & a gentleman.”
For those who followed in his wake between the posts he was a hard act to follow but England were blessed in having two world class goalkeepers in Ray Clemence and Peter Shilton.
“He was a wonderful man and we knew we had big shoes to fill and that helped us as well,” Clemence told the BBC today.
“We had to keep the standard of English goalkeeping at the level Gordon had set.” — AFP