Gordon Banks: England's World Cup-winning goalkeeper dies aged 81

Tom McGowan
Deputy Head of Sport

Gordon Banks, the goalkeeper in England’s 1966 World Cup-winning team, has died aged 81.

Banks, who made 510 league appearances for Chesterfield, Leicester and Stoke, was an influential figure as the Three Lions lifted the World Cup.

He also won the League Cup in 1964 with the Foxes.

A statement on Stoke’s website said: “It is with great sadness that we announce that Gordon passed away peacefully overnight.

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

“We would ask that the privacy of the family is respected at this time.”

READ MORE: Hero, mentor and inspiration – Fellow goalkeepers pay tribute to Banks

IN PICTURES: Gordon Banks’ career as England icon dies aged 81

READ MORE: Five of the greatest goalkeeping saves of all time

England goalkeepers: In numbers
Former Stoke City goalkeeper Gordon Banks holds the Jules Rimet trophy as he is awarded a a Stoke City shirt before the game.

Banks retired from the professional game at the age of 34 following a road accident which cost him the sight in his right eye, although he later returned briefly to football in America.

But it was on the international stage that he established himself as a star, making his England debut in a 2-1 defeat by Scotland at Wembley in April 1963 and going on to win 73 senior caps, most famously in the 4-2 World Cup final victory over West Germany in 1966.

However, he will probably be best remembered for his heroics in Mexico four years later when he made the logic-defying save which was to define his career when he somehow managed to turn Brazil star Pele’s header over the crossbar.

England manager Gareth Southgate said on the Football Association website: “I am deeply saddened to hear of Gordon’s passing.

“An all-time great for England, I was privileged enough to be in his company on a number of occasions.

“It was particularly special to be with him at a Football Writers’ tribute dinner last year and wish him well on his 80th birthday.

“Gordon spoke to the room about that incredible save from Pele against Brazil back in 1970 and moments like that from his remarkable World Cup-winning career will continue to linger long in the memory.

“On behalf of everyone connected with England, I send my condolences to his wife Ursula, his family and friends.”

Banks, who is survived by his wife Ursula and their children Robert, Wendy and Julia, had served as Stoke’s club president since 2000, and chairman Peter Coates paid tribute to a man who helped the Potters win the League Cup in 1972.

Former International soccer players England goal keeper, Gordon Banks (left) with a picture of his famous save from Brazil striker Pele (right).
Gordon Banks jumps to make a save in the match with Hungary at Wembley.

‘The greatest ever save’

His status as an all-time great may have been sealed at the 1966 World Cup, but it was the save Gordon Banks produced to deny Pele four years later which became his defining moment on the international stage.

The goalkeeper’s spectacular stop in a group-stage clash with Brazil during England’s defence of the trophy in Mexico is widely regarded as one of the greatest saves of all time.

Banks, who has died at the age of 81, flung himself to his right and, in a feat which seemed to defy the laws of physics, somehow managed with one hand not only to keep Pele’s powerful downward header out, but also flick the ball over the bar.

READ MORE: Gordon Banks – The England keeper who made the ‘greatest ever’ save

‘An absolute hero’

Footballing icons past and present took to social media to share their condolences.

Gary Lineker called Banks ‘an absolute hero of mine’, while current star Raheem Sterling said his legacy ‘will live on’.

Ex-England striker Michael Owen tweeted: “Sad to hear that Gordon Banks has passed away at the age of 81. Had the pleasure of meeting him a number of times and he was one of the game’s true gentlemen, not to mention one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. Rest In Peace.”

Peter Shilton, who followed Banks as England number one, tweeted: “I’m devastated – today Ive lost my hero our condolences to his family rip Gordon.”

The Germany football team’s Twitter account posted an image of Banks embracing opposition players on the Wembley pitch in 1966.

“A fierce opponent and a good man. Rest in peace, Gordon Banks,” they tweeted.