GORDON BANKS turned the clock back to a memorable triumph over West Ham United when he celebrated his 75th birthday on Thursday evening in the countdown to Stoke City’s Barclays Premier League encounter with the Hammers.
The World Cup winning goalkeeper fondly recalled the crucial penalty save he made to deny England colleague Geoff Hurst in an epic League Cup semi-final encounter with West Ham which eventually led to City lifting their one major trophy so far.
Banks singled out that save as a particularly special moment in a career that scaled so many heights when he was joined by friends and former colleagues of his at club and international levels for the celebration dinner held at Britannia Stadium.
“There are so many wonderful memories and any professional footballer would have been more than happy to have experienced just one of them in their career, so I consider myself to be extremely fortunate,” he commented.
“The semi-final against West Ham stands out as one of the highlights because it meant so much to the Club and to the people of Stoke-on-Trent, getting to our first major cup final in over 100 years and then going on to win the trophy.
“To make the save that I did against Geoff Hurst kept us in the tie and earned us another replay where we then got through to the Final.”
He added: “It was a tremendous achievement to beat Chelsea at Wembley because they were the favourites, but we played ever so well.”
Not surprisingly then, Banks is hoping that City can record another win over West Ham this weekend to consolidate their position in the top ten.
“That would be great,” he said. “There has been an improvement each season since the Club got into the Premier League and I’m just hoping that they can get back to playing the way they were in the first half of the season; that would be great.
“I’m sure if we can get a win on Saturday, it will give everyone a lift and that will give us a fantastic chance of finishing in the top ten.”
Banks was joined by the likes of Roger Hunt, Ron Flowers and Ian Callaghan from the 1966 England squad at the celebration dinner in a packed Tony Waddington Suite, while also present were many of his City team-mates from the League Cup triumph.
“I can’t believe that I’m this age because I certainly don’t feel it,” he added. “I feel the years have absolutely flown by; it really has gone very quick.”