Gordon Banks Tribute – 50 years on from 1966.
On Thursday 24th March 2016 a packed Waddington Suite with over 350 guests came to pay their respects to a true hero of World Football. On the eve of the 50th anniversary of England’s most famous victory Stoke City Old Boys Association held their annual dinner to pay tribute to one of their own and to rekindle memories of that great day almost 50 years ago.
A host of former players were in attendance the most we have ever had at an event since we started in 2009. Alan Dodd, Mike Pejic, Kevin Lewis, Mike McDonald, Jimmy Robertson, Sean Haslegrave, Carl Beeston, Andy Holmes, Wayne Biggins, Phil Heath, Tony Bentley, Dave Regis,Noel Blake, George Jackson, Trevor Fairbanks,Terry Lees, Gerry Jones, Matt Hughes, John Mahoney,Martin Brown, Eric Skeels, Willie Stevenson, George Berry, Jackie Marsh, John Worsdale, Denis Smith, Jimmy Greenhoff, Terry Conroy, John Ruggiero, Geoff Scott and Brendan O’Callaghan.
Also in attendance were other former players which included a table of goalkeepers. Joe Corrigan (Man City ), Martin Thomas ( Birmingham ), Matt Murray ( Wolves ), Eddie Neidweizki ( Chelsea ), Andy Quy ( Stoke City Coach ), Danny Alcock ( SCFC Academy Coach ). Also making the guest list was Colin Addison and Graham Hawkins.
Nigel Johnson the voice of Stoke City was the MC for the night and the evening was soon underway with a parade of Stoke City greats entering the room. These players representing at least 4 decades of the club. Gordon then entered the room to a standing ovation and the atmosphere for the remainder of the night was set. Nigel then introduced all the other players to typical warm applause of the Stokies.
After a traditional SCOBA menu of Pie, Peas Chips and Gravy the room settled to listen to Terry Conroy interview the great man. Gordon looked great despite his recent health issues he’s now 78 years old and still walks our socks off on a Tuesday morning. Gordon began by telling us how he started as a kid. He said “ If I can do it then so can any other kid.” He certainly didn’t have instant success as a youngster and had to work hard to get people to notice him. Letting 12 goals in during one match would have put many off. He talked about his first professional club Chesterfield and how he was soon playing for Leicester City in 2 Cup Finals.
He talked about his early England career describing Alf Ramsay as a brilliant manager and man. Alf would rule with a rod of iron and nobody in the squad would expect to be picked unless they deserved it. Geoff Hurst soon found out to his cost when after one game he said to Alf “ See you next Time.” Only for Alf to suggest there might not be a next time !!
The 1966 World Cup gave up some great stories especially the game against Argentina in the quarter final. The room were treated to stories that had never reached the press back in the day. Gordon described the Argentinians as a team that would do anything to win a match. In their infamous captain Rattin he would kick his own dad “ if he could find him.” said Gordon. Rattin was sent off and he tried to get his players to walk off the pitch with him. As the final whistle blew and England had won Alf Ramsay refused to let any England player swop his shirt. What many didn’t know was that after the game the Argentinian players tried to start a fight with the England players smashing a glass window in the dressing room. Apparently Nobby Stiles hiding behind Jack Charlton said “ let the bastards in well sort em out.”
Gordon described the final as the greatest day of his life. However the rewards were not so great in those days about a £1000 per man for winning football’s greatest prize. Gordon found out in years to come that the loosing team West Germany received £7000 per man , a house and a Mercedes Car !!
The greatest save of all time was talked about in great detail namely the famous save from Pele at Mexico in 1970. TC joked that Pele had scored over a 1000 goals in his career but when ever fans spoke to him they only asked about the save of Gordon Banks.
Gordon also spoke of the food poisoning he had before the West Germany game in Mexico. He described the worst fitness test in the history of the game which was conducted to try and get him passed fit for the game. Gordon was quick to point out that he had never blamed Peter Bonnetti for England’s loss that day which brought applause all around the room.
Gordon spoke freely about his current health issues telling the audience that his tumour has reduced in size and he was hopeful that this progress would mean he could have surgery to remove it completely.
The hour went by so quickly and a standing ovation brought the proceedings to a close.
We were soon laughing the night away with some stand up comedy from Jed Stone and that was it.
A great night for all in attendance, everyone in the room went way with a unique signed photo of Gordon and a lasting memory of what a hero he really is. Lets hope he gets that Knighthood soon.
Many thanks to Phil Greig for the photographs.