Gordon Banks OBE, 1937-2019
The 27th August, 1966 was one of my proudest moments in football. It was Leicester City’s first home game after the World Cup win a few weeks earlier. The match was against West Ham United and, before the match, four of the England team paraded around the Filbert Street pitch – Moore, Hurst, Peters and more importantly to me, my first hero Gordon ‘Sugar’ Banks. City won the match 5-4 with Jackie Sinclair scoring a hat-trick: whilst memory of the goals has faded, the pride I felt that day that a City player had won the World Cup is forever with me.
The great sadness I and others felt today was exacerbated for me by listening to the tributes on the radio. As the many tributes poured in the focus was on Banksy as a Stoke player, a club who seemed to embrace him more than Leicester City did. His departure from Leicester was not welcomed by Banks himself, I remember at the time being in disbelief that he would move from Leicester let alone to a lesser club.
Peter Shilton was a name we knew but were as yet not able to appreciate his talents, but how could Leicester force the World’s greatest keeper out of the club. City further treated him badly by refusing to pay him a loyalty bonus, this was finally agreed at £2000 but, incredibly, it was Stoke that paid it as Banks found out in later years. After his playing days finished Banks became president at Stoke City, a statue of Gordon Banks stands proudly outside the Britannia Stadium.
The only time I ever spoke to Gordon was at a Charity match at Gretton, Nr. Corby in the late 1980’s. It was a match I arranged with Birch’s Leicester All Stars. Gordon played, not in goal but on the wing, it mattered not. At the end of the match the people who attended were to a man, woman and child waiting for his autograph and Gordon signed for everyone with that broad smile and a thank you for all.
I remember how he came across as a humble man, he did not brag about his achievements, his great saves, his World No. 1 ranking; he seemed almost embarrassed by the high regard he was held in. I remember he wanted to talk more about youth football than his own achievements. He was interested in people, he had time for people, and his soft voice put you at ease in the great man’s presence.
Before the WBA v Nottingham Forest match tonight at the Hawthorns, the screen showed a picture of Banks diving to his right with his shirt bearing the wonderful foxes head and hunting crops.
When Leicester City play Crystal Palace a week on Saturday, I am sure that the Club will give their legend a send off to be proud of, I for one will have tears in my eyes. Let us all remember he was foremost a Leicester City player, during the minutes applause or silence I will be thinking of that Saturday in August 1966 when he made me so proud to be a Leicester City fan.
My first hero, and first heroes never, ever die
Written by Colin Murrant