GORDON Banks is a World Cup-winning goalkeeper, but his career is remembered for one moment that did not take place during the 1966 tournament.
“Everybody talks about the one and only save; I think it’s the only one I ever made in my career,” said former England goalkeeper Banks, reminiscing about his famous save against Brazil ahead of the glamour friendly between the two nations at Wembley tomorrow as part of the Football Association’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
‘That’ save is the one where Banks denied Pele, arguably the greatest exponent of football, during the 1970 World Cup finals. As a right-wing cross from Jairzinho drifted to the back post and was met powerfully by Pele, a goal seemed certain.
The intervention of Banks, his instinctive reaction and firm palm, is imprinted on the memory for all who saw it and the generations since who have watched it on YouTube.
“Wherever I go people bring that up all the time. After all these years I cannot believe people still talk about it,” added the 75-year-old, who was speaking at the 50th anniversary of the Football Pools Panel.
“Even kids. I get letters from kids in China. Even they’re talking about it. After I got my hand to it, I thought it was going in. I didn’t know where it had gone. Then I saw it bounce behind the goal. It was an important save at the time, because it was 0-0. That gave the lads a lift.
“We played as good football in that game as they did, created more chances to score goals, but we didn’t put one away and they did and beat us 1-0.
“I thought we were going to meet them further on in the tournament; they would’ve been a little bit uneasy about meeting us after that game. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be.”
England’s World Cup defence was ended by West Germany in the quarter-finals, while Brazil won the tournament. Many would agree with Banks’ assessment now. “That was the greatest footballing machine I’ve ever seen play, that 1970 Brazilian team out in Mexico in that World Cup,” Banks added.
“To sit in the stand and watch them play against the other two teams in our group; it was a thrill to watch this lovely, flowing football. Playing against it was awesome.”
Banks has confidence in Joe Hart, the current England number one, as Roy Hodgson’s men step up preparations for the final part of their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Banks, who does not intend to travel to South America next summer, said: “Playing against Brazil at Wembley I’m sure he (Hart) will know he’ll have a bit of work to do. I can see them coming over to try to beat us. It’s going to be a super game.
“Joe Hart’s doing very, very well. I must admire him. Since he’s got into the England team he’s looked confident about what he’s doing, he’s playing well for Manchester City, he commands his area, he’s got good reflexes for a tall man and he dominates in the air. He’s not all that old at all. He could go on and even get better and stay with the England team for quite a number of years.”
Banks believes Hart is by far the best English-qualified goalkeeper, but wants the 25-year-old not to look too far into the future and let complacency take hold.
“I don’t believe there’s anybody pressurising him,” Banks added. “I just don’t want him to get that complacency. I don’t think he will do, but we’ll have to wait and see.”