Gordon Banks was a national hero - didn't he deserve better?

February 12, 2019

In the modern era, he would have been Sir Gordon Banks, surely?

Of England's 1966 heroes, perhaps only he and captain Bobby Moore - who was also denied a knighthood - could have expected to be included in a World XI lineup throughout two World Cup cycles.

Ironically, despite his part in the once-in-a-lifetime triumph of 53 years ago, he is arguably better remembered for two matches in the following World Cup in Mexico - one of which he spent in bed.

His save from a header by Pele guaranteed his place in global football folklore, although he always reckoned he'd achieved similar feats in club matches, away from the TV cameras.

The Brazilian maestro still says people ask him about that more than any other single incident.

Though England lost the game, they were still favoured by many to repeat their 1966 triumph when they came to their quarter-final against West Germany.

Banks had food poisoning and watched on television in bed at the team hotel as errors by his replacement, Peter Bonetti, helped the Germans fight back from 2-0 down to knock England out of the tournament.

Unfussy and understated, notably so even in an era when those virtues were more common, Banks was nobody's fool and no pushover.

His 1970 performances can be seen as a retort to Leicester City, who thought his best days were behind him and sold him to Stoke in 1967.

He helped Stoke to a League Cup Final in 1972 - stunningly blocking a penalty from his England teammate Geoff Hurst in the semi-final against West Ham.

His career effectively ended six months later when a car crash blinded him in one eye.

Banks' expertise was barely called upon and he remained disgruntled that the World Cup winners were not better appreciated in the game.

"The FA have done nothing for us," he said last year.

Fans, fellow players and journalists knew his worth and enjoyed his company - his wry humour lit up many dinners, and he always had time to chat afterwards.

Last summer, FIFA called on him to take part in the draw for the World Cup in Russia.

It proved a final hurrah for a man who felt forced to sell his 1966 winners medal in 2001 to help his three children buy their first houses.

Don't national heroes deserve better?

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