GORDON BANKS OBE had already established his reputation as one of the world’s greatest ever goalkeepers by the time he joined Stoke City in 1967.
He was, of course, already a World Cup winner by that time … and over the course of the next six years he etched his name in the Club’s folklore, not least by playing a key role in the 1972 League Cup triumph.
Banks, who has passed away at the age of 81, made 194 league appearances for the Potters – a tally that would have stretched way beyond the 200-mark had it not been for a car accident that cost him the sight in his right eye and forced him to call time on his career in England prematurely.
His contribution to the Club did not end there, though, as he was made President in 2000, a role he remained in until his death, regularly attending matches at the bet365 Stadium where he would proudly take his place in the directors box.
Born in Sheffield, Banks launched his career as a youth team player with Chesterfield where he made his first team debut in 1958. A year later he was sold to Leicester City for £7,000.
Whilst playing for the East Midlands club he collected a League Cup winners’ medal and established himself as England’s No.1 goalkeeper.
Banks was an ever-present in Sir Alf Ramsey’s England team as they won the World Cup on home soil in 1966. Remarkably, he didn’t concede a goal from open play on route to the Final and he was named goalkeeper of the tournament.
He joined Stoke in 1967 and continued to shine at international level, particularly at the 1970 World Cup when he made one of the most iconic saves in the history of the game.
With Pelé already convinced his goal-bound header was in, Banks, diving low to his far right, somehow managed to not only get a hand to the ball but to flick it up over the bar. “It was the greatest save I’ve ever seen”, the Brazilian said afterwards.
He was named FIFA’s Goalkeeper of the Year for five successive years – the final accolade coming in 1971, a year before he helped the Potters land the League Cup.
He was pivotal in that triumph and his penalty save to deny his ’66 colleague Sir Geoff Hurst in extra-time of the second leg of the Semi-Final is still talked about to this day by Potters fans.
At the end of that season he was honoured by the Football Writers’ Association who named him their Footballer of the Year, the first goalkeeper to receive the coveted award since Manchester City’s Bert Trautmann in 1956.
He retired from professional English football in the summer of 1973 following his car crash, although he did play in the United States for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the late 1970s.
He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and in 2014 he was given the freedom of the city of Stoke-on-Trent, which remained his home.
Visitors to the bet365 Stadium are greeted by a bronze statue of Banks holding aloft the Jules Rimet trophy – a permanent reminder of a wonderful goalkeeper and passionate advocate of his adopted home city.
He will always hold a special place in the hearts of all those he came into contact with and will be sadly missed by everyone connected with Stoke City and the city of Stoke-on-Trent.