The Saving Mr Banks

It’s Tuesday morning and GJ Strachan is suffering from a severe case of writers block. Annoyingly, the ordinarily creative segment of my brain currently bereft of an inspirational epiphany or notion. Even the memories of my Gateshead childhood, which have proved so fertile in the past week, thus far unable to produce a narrative topic

That being said, I won’t panic at the current paucity of ideas for populating the chaste page in front of me. Experience has taught that at some point in the next few hours a topic(s) will manifest from deep within my neurological corridors. And should the worst come to the worst and they don’t, at least I’ve got a bag of Haribos to trough on so things aren’t all bad.

I’m uncertain of the source of my creative impotence, although I’d venture it’ll be partly caused by the poor nights sleep I’ve just experienced. My insufficient slumber the result of a racing mind, along with the noise of wind whistling around my downstairs bay window like a demented Roger Whittaker.

07.-Banks-and-World-Cup-1966

As I start this paragraph I’ve just read that former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks has passed at the age of 81. The Sheffield-born man who proudly donned the yellow goalkeeping keeping shirt at Wembley on the 30th July 1966 when, along with his red shirted outfield colleagues, England claimed their one and only World Cup triumph.

 

As I was only three years old at the time, I’m too young to recall anything about that day of England’s greatest footballing achievement. However, I do recall four years later witnessing Banks’ miraculous save from Brazilian legend Pele’s header during the group stages of 1970’s World Cup tournament.

A stop so unbelievable, when witnessing it live on the monochrome TV in our Gateshead home, I thought it’d hit England’s post. This seven year old boy concluding that from Banks starting position at his other post there’s no way he could’ve guided the header round the post…… Could he?!

Much to my chagrin, the ref had signalled corner. Sitting on our living room floor in front of the TV, I turning to my old man perched next to my brother Ian on the settee, enquiring bewilderedly  “Why’s that a corner, dad? It hit the post!…. Surely it should be a England goal kick!”

Shaking his head, from what I look back on as a mixture of disagreement and disbelief Banks had kept the score at 0-0, he assured me in his calm West Yorkshire tones “No, Gary. I think Banks saved it!”

The old man’s interpretation of the live incident confirmed when BBC commentator David Coleman talked viewers through the replay. Slow motion television pictures  showing the goalkeeper, who plied his club football at Leicester City, had indeed diverted Pele’s powerful downward header around the post.

At this point the inquisitiveness of boyhood kicked in, causing me to mull over how what I’d seen beamed live from Mexico was even physically possible. The level of disbelief so high that if computer generated imagery had been available in 1970, I’d have probably wondered if what I’d just witnessed had been CGI’d.

It didn’t take long, though, before I was back watching the ongoing England v Brazil game after being shaken from my Gordon Banks induced day dream. My mum entering the fray from the kitchen and seeing my close proximity to the TV screen, admonishing me “Gary, move away from the television!…… You’re sat too close!….. You’ll damage your eyesight, you silly lad!”

Shuffling on my backside, I reversed away from the TV screen as earlier requested/demanded (delete where applicable) by my mother. While in motion, I concluded that after witnessing that save perhaps there was something to my mum’s theory. Maybe my eyesight was diminishing; which would explain the unbelievable visions I’d experienced a few minutes earlier.

Brazil went on to win the group encounter 1-0 courtesy of a Jairzinho blast that even the great Banks couldn’t keep out. Regardless of the defeat England reached the quarter-finals of the tournament where, minus the unwell Gordon Banks, they were knocked out 3-2 (after extra-time) by West Germany.

The cries from some quarters of subterfuge being the source of the first choice goalkeepers food poisoning were never proved. What was clear, though, was  Banks’ replacement Peter ‘The Cat’ Bonetti’s performance was sadly more like Peter ‘Lead Boots’ Bonetti.

Anyhow, with regards to Gordon Banks group stage denial of a Pele goal. In all of the years I’ve loved and watched football I can’t ever recall a save taking precedence as a top-level game’s most memorable moment. With the possible exception of Jim Montgomery’s wonder save for Sunderland against Leeds United in the 1973 FA Cup Final…… As a Leeds United fan, though, I won’t dwell further on that miracle stop!

In 2019, to the millennial generation Banksy is an upmarket graffiti artist who likes to keep his anonymity. To older generations, though, the name Banksy will always be synonymous with a World Cup winning legend who made the greatest save ever seen in a World Cup tournament.

RIP Gordon Banks

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