Gordon Banks is being honoured in many tributes following his death with many not only paying tribute to his legendary status in football but also his service in the Royal Signals - with others remembering the times they met him, or even played alongside him.
Forces Radio BFBS delved into the archives to listen again to an interview in which the goalkeeping legend told presenter Hal Stewart a surprising anecdote about ‘that goal’ for which he is perhaps best known – the moment he made a wonder save from footballing great Pele during the 1970 World Cup against Brazil.
Banks, talking to Hal in a radio interview, said: “I have seen some great saves on television but believe this or believe this not, a few weeks ago, I was doing a dinner.
“They showed this save and I swear to you now, I mean this sincerely – I didn’t realise that he was as close to the goal as he actually was, seriously.
“Imagine the penalty spot, he was a step towards the goal rather than, I thought he was a step away from the penalty spot when he headed it.
“It was closer – I couldn’t believe it when I saw it.”
Listen to Gordon Banks in interview with Hal Stewart in the audio below:
In the interview, Banks, who grew up in Sheffield, goes on to tell Hal how Stoke City was the club he remembers as “his best place” saying: “Because Leicester City had decided they had had the best out of me but I didn’t feel like I’d reached the top of my best, in fact I knew I hadn’t so I was disappointed that they had done that after playing in four cup finals in the eight years, counting the World Cup Final and five cup finals.
“But when I actually got to Stoke, they made me so welcome, you know, the directors, the manager, the crowd, It was incredible, it really was lovely, and I found a big difference.
“So I decided that was where I wanted to be, that’s where I was right to the end of my career.”
He said the best player he had played alongside was Bobby Moore.
“He could read the game, so well, he was terrific at reading the game, and he never, very, very rarely, gave a pass away, he always made sure he got that ball to one of our players whether it was a long ball or a short ball.
“We really got on well together in that England team. I really enjoyed it.”
The goalkeeping legend resisted any partisan support for particular clubs and ends with a diplomatic message for all the armed forces:
“I hope you’re all listening to this and you all support different teams, I know, so what I’m going to say is ‘congratulations’ and I hope your team does exceptionally well.”
Hal, following the tragic news of the legend’s passing, said: “It was one of my favourite interviews of all time. As I'm someone who loves football it doesn't get much better than interviewing arguably the greatest goalkeeper in English football history.
“They say never meet your heroes but Gordon was just as friendly, kind and forthcoming as I had imagined.
"I only had a few minutes with him but we could have chatted for hours. He was so interesting with such amazing memories, which he was only too happy to share.
“He was a privilege to speak with and I know his legacy will live on for generations."
How Military Service Found Gordon Banks A Wife – And Football
Some references to Gordon Banks on social media mention those who were stationed at Monchengladbach, back in the days of the now closed Rheindahlen Military Complex in Germany, when those sharing a barracks block with Banks recalled joining the Army football team and playing alongside the man who would go on to become a part of football history.
Banks was posted to Germany during his two years of National Service with the Royal Corps of Signals, aged 17.
It was during his overseas service where he met his German wife, Ursula.
In his Autobiography ‘Banksy’, the goalkeeper describes how his early career at Chesterfield Football Club was interrupted as a teenager when he received his call-up papers for National Service.
In the book, he tells how he joined the Royal Corps of Signals and was posted to Germany “after weeks of square-bashing at camps in Catterick and Ripon”.
He goes on to explain how he thanked fate for him meeting “a beautiful young German girl called Ursula”, writing:
“I fell in love with her and I’m even more in love with her now.”
Banks tells how, as part of his Army life, he did get to play quite a lot of football in Germany, saying that once the Army learned that he was ‘a pro’ he was soon picked for his squad, before soon representing his regiment in Armed Forces’ tournaments.
He took a regimental team on to win the Rhine Cup – a prestigious trophy that at the time was a coveted prize and prestigious trophy in Army sport.
On his return to the UK after he was demobbed, Banks says in his autobiography how Chesterfield must have been keeping tabs on him during his service overseas because not long after he arrived home, he was sent a letter inviting him back to the club at Saltergate.
After marrying Ursula, whom he met at a dance in 1955, the couple went on to have three children – Robert in 1958, Wendy in 1963, and Julia in 1969.
He is survived by his wife and children and grandchildren.
His nephew Nick Banks is the drummer with Sheffield band Pulp alongside frontman Jarvis Cocker.
Other tributes, some also paying homage to his military service, have been posted on social media, with a selection included below:
In 2010, he also told Jon Knighton during BFBS’s World Cup Coverage that year how he had trained hard in the run-up to that renowned save back in 1970.