London (AFP) – Gordon Banks, England’s goalkeeper during their triumphant 1966 World Cup campaign, has died aged 81, his former club Stoke City announced on Tuesday.
His family said the 73-times capped Banks, who lost an eye in a car crash in 1972, had passed away in his sleep.
“It is with great sadness that we announce that Gordon passed away peacefully overnight,” his family 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 77-year-old Hurst.
Banks, who played in every game of the 1966 campaign on home soil, is probably best known for a wonder save he produced to deny Brazilian great Pele in the 1970 World Cup group match.
“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.
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 goosebumps’ –
Banks, whose club playing career revolved largely around Stoke and Leicester City, is the latest of the 1966 team to pass away.
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.
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.