One sunny Saturday in July with Gordon Banks

Save of the century: The late Gordon Banks pulls off his ‘miracle save’ from Pele during the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.
Save of the century: The late Gordon Banks pulls off his ‘miracle save’ from Pele during the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

Childhood heroes really never do leave the mind’s eye and a couple of weeks back, there was just a little moment of sadness when the news broke that one of the world’s greatest ever soccer goalkeepers had died. For any child of the 1960s with an ambition to have a career between the sticks, the mere mention of the name Gordon Banks, always sent a frisson of wonder running through the veins.

His club playing career through the late 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s was remarkably low-key in an era when goalkeepers didn’t enjoy the profile and status that they do nowadays. He initially caught the eye in the 1950s as youth team goalkeeper with Chesterfield before making the big move to Leicester City in 1959 for a fee of . . . wait for it  . . . £7,000.

Even after England’s World Cup success in 1966, Leicester City subsequently dropped him a year later and then sold Banks off to Stoke City for a slightly more respectable £50,000. It was a time when big clubs didn’t spend big money on goalkeepers and from his club career, all Gordon Banks had to show in his honours’ cabinet were two League Cup medals with Leicester in 1964 and Stoke in 1972.

The Saturday afternoon of July 30, 1966, is though the date that put Gordon Banks and English soccer ‘on the map’ when they won the World Cup title for the first and only time. For most kids of the 1960s, these were still effectively pre-television days with only the very odd house ‘out the country’ having a black-and-white television, almost exclusively confined to just one RTE channel.

That final Saturday in July, 1966, was a particularly sunny one in my neck-of-the-woods, but being considered too young to help out with a bout of hay-making going on that day, I was ‘left at home’ to keep an eye on the spuds and to tidy up the house. The only ‘window’ of the time to goings-on in the outside world was the trusted Philips radio, big and beautiful, as well as being heavily laden with valves that occasionally crackled in a cantankerous kind of way.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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