Like Gordon Banks, “RIP” only has one “I”… Gordon Banks made his debut for Yorkshire League outfit Rawmarsh Welfare at the age of 15. However, after letting in 12 goals in that match (against Stocksbridge Works), he was promptly let go and took up work as a hod carrier.
He was picked up by Chesterfield the following year, and in his first season for the club (playing for their reserve side) he conceded 122 goals. These baptisms of fire made the man though: Chesterfield had no goalkeeping coach, and Banks soon learned to marshal a defence himself while still a teenager.
With only 23 league starts to his name, he was signed by Leicester City in 1959 and his career went to the next level: he made his England debut in 1963 and won the League Cup the following year. It was, of course, in 1966 that he had his most famous summer: Banks kept clean sheets in England’s first five games and wasn’t beaten until the semi-finals against Portugal, when Eusebio scored an 82nd minute consolation penalty as the Three Lions won 2-1.
In fairness Banks was mediocre in the final, arguably being at fault for West Germany’s opening goal, but he probably didn’t care that much. Four years later, in Mexico 70, he had his finest and darkest moments in quick succession: the legendary save against Pele in the group stages, followed by a bout of explosive diarrhoea that kept him out against West Germany in the revenge match. Peter Bonetti brought the circus to town as England threw away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2.
As with many of the Class of ’66, Banks had money issues in retirement – he ended up selling his World Cup medal and his final England cap to make ends meet. In 2015 he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and he died during his sleep in February 2019. Ironically, his passing means that in terms of players from that 1966 final who have now died it’s England 4 – West Germany 2.