Football: Tributes pour in for Stoke's England World Cup-winning 'keeper Gordon Banks, who dies at 81

Gordon Banks is probably best known for a wonder save he produced to deny football legend Pele in a 1970 World Cup group match in Mexico that Brazil won 1-0.
Gordon Banks is probably best known for a wonder save he produced to deny football legend Pele in a 1970 World Cup group match in Mexico that Brazil won 1-0.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Gordon Banks, the England football team's goalkeeper when they won the 1966 World Cup, has died aged 81, his former club Stoke announced on Tuesday (Feb 12).

His family said the former star, who lost an eye in a car crash in 1972, had died in his sleep.

"It is with great sadness that we announce that Gordon passed away peacefully overnight," they said.

"We are devastated to lose him but we have so many happy memories and could not have been more proud of him."

Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in the 4-2 win over West Germany in the World Cup final at Wembley, tweeted a fulsome tribute to his former team-mate.

"Very sad to hear the news that Gordon has died. One of the very greatest," tweeted the 77-year-old.

"Thinking especially of Ursula (wife), Julia, Wendy and Robert (children). Sad for football, Stoke City and for England fans. Will be very sadly missed."

Banks, who played in every game of that historic campaign, is probably best known for a wonder save he produced to deny football legend Pele in a 1970 World Cup group match in Mexico.

"Once I got my hand to it I hadn't a clue where it was going," he modestly said afterwards.

Pele - who would go on to lift the trophy - admitted later he had said "gol", so sure was he that the ball was heading into the net. Brazil still won the game 1-0.

However, Banks later recounted that he did not appreciate the remark made by one of his team-mates that day, midfielder Alan Mullery.

"I patted him on his head, and I said 'why didn't you catch it?' and the abuse that came back was unbelievable," said Mullery.

Banks, whose club playing career revolved largely around Stoke and Leicester, is the latest of the 1966 team to die.

Captain Bobby Moore, the baby of the team Alan Ball and Ray Wilson preceded him while several such as Nobby Stiles and Martin Peters suffer from Alzheimer's.

Mullery said Banks was probably the best goalkeeper he had played with or against.

"He was the best at that time. We had some great goalkeepers in those days, and the only person I can think came near was Pat Jennings," said Mullery. "He was absolutely marvellous goalkeeper. He was a likeable man, and when it came to business, he was probably the best there has ever been."

'He had goose-bumps'

Another former Leicester and England legend Gary Lineker - albeit from a later generation - also tweeted his appreciation of Banks, whose sole trophies at club level were two League Cups, one piece with Stoke and Leicester.

"Oh no. Gordon Banks, an absolute hero of mine, and countless others, has died," tweeted Lineker. "@England's World Cup winner was one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, and such a lovely, lovely man. #RIPGordon."

Stoke City chairman Peter Coates said Banks - who played 250 times for The Potters after he joined from Leicester in 1967 - had not been in good health for several weeks.

"We've been expecting this, he has been (doing) poorly for a number of weeks but it's a very sad day for us, we love him so much," said Coates. "He made his home in Stoke, and was very much part of the fabric of the club. You don't get too many like him, and he was immensely modest for all (his) talent.

"He told me when they walked out at Wembley for the final, and he had goose-bumps, he had never seen anything like it."