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Football and the First World War

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Gordon Banks

A World Cup winner in 1966, Gordon Banks was considered by football fans as the greatest goalkeeper in the world and, for many, he will always be the greatest ever.

At six-foot one and thirteen-and-a-half stones, Banks had the ideal physique for a goalkeeper. The strength in his upper body and arms had been inadvertently developed in his youth, when he worked as a bagger at a local coal merchants.

At club level, after starting his career at Chesterfield Gordon was on the losing side in the 1961 and 1963 FA Cup Finals, but won the League Cup with Leicester in 1964. By then Alf Ramsay had become England manager and selected him for his second match in charge of the team - the first of Gordon’s 73 international caps. England lost only nine of their 73 matches with Banks in goal - conceding only 57 goals, a miserly average of just 0.78 per game with 35 clean sheets.

Gordon joined Stoke City in 1967 for £50,000 and helped Stoke win their first trophy in their history in 1972 - the League Cup against Chelsea - and he was voted ‘Footballer of the Year’ the same year.  He underlined his claim to be the greatest goalkeeper in the world four years later in Mexico with one extraordinary piece of athleticism and skill, which Pele - the victim of his brilliance - later described as ‘the greatest save I have ever seen'.  When the great Brazilian made contact with a powerful downward header at the far post, he was so convinced that it was going in, he shouted 'Golo!'  After scampering across his goal, Banks palmed the bouncing ball over the bar at full stretch.  ‘It was incredible that he managed to push the ball over the bar,' Pele said later. ‘A split second later it would have been in. I've never had such a surprise in football.'  The next day the Mexican newspapers nicknamed Banks ‘El Magnifico'

Still an automatic choice for his country since his debut in 1963, Banks had recently signed a new six-year contract with Stoke when he was involved in a head-on collision that resulted in the loss of sight in his right eye. He was forced into retirement but remarkably, five years later, he made a comeback overseas, playing for Fort Lauderdale Strikers. In 1977, at the age of 39 and despite the handicap of his impaired vision, Banks was voted the best goalkeeper playing in the United States soccer league.

A statue of the legendary goalkeeper was was unveiled at Stoke City's  Britannia Stadium in July 2008 by Pele. The legendary Brazilian striker joked: "I score more than 1,000 goals in my life, but the goal I don't score they remember."