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A humble superstar - Tributes paid to World Cup winner Banks at moving funeral

A humble superstar - Tributes paid to World Cup winner Banks at moving funeral
© Reuters
The former goalkeeper died at the age of 81 last month.

Sir Geoff Hurst described Gordon Banks as a “superstar” on the pitch which contrasted with his self-effacing personality as footballers past and present turned out to pay their respects to the World Cup-winning goalkeeper.

The former England international died, aged 81, on February 12 and his funeral was held at Stoke Minster on Monday afternoon.

Hurst, Sir Bobby and Jack Charlton and Roger Hunt, who were in the starting XI alongside Banks as England defeated Germany 4-2 in the 1966 World Cup final, were among the mourners.

A reputation as one of the finest shot-stoppers of his or any era was not the only legacy Banks left behind, according to Hurst.

The former striker said in a moving eulogy: “He was a superstar on the field but, quite frankly, off the field he was not a superstar at all.

“He was a very ordinary guy, never had any airs and graces, and that was one of the beautiful things about Banksy that I remember very well.

“He was a joker, a funny man, for over 50 years and every time we met during our careers or years after he would come up and joke.

“Banksy, rest in peace. We love you and we miss you.”

Sir Geoff Hurst, pictured, led the tributes to Gordon Banks (Nick Potts/PA)
Sir Geoff Hurst, pictured, led the tributes to Gordon Banks (Nick Potts/PA)

Hundreds gathered at the bet365 Stadium to watch the funeral which was broadcast on two big screens.

Hours earlier a five-car funeral cortege passed through the ground, stopping for a few minutes at the pitch-side dugout, to a sustained round of applause.

The various achievements of Banks, who made 73 international appearances and was named FIFA goalkeeper of the year on six occasions, were displayed on the screens as a chant of ‘England’s number one’ broke out.

Sir Bobby Charlton, right, was among the mourners (Nick Potts/PA)
Sir Bobby Charlton, right, was among the mourners (Nick Potts/PA)

Sheffield-born Banks made nearly 200 appearances for Stoke and, such was his standing, he was named the club’s president following the death of Sir Stanley Matthews at the turn of the century.

The statue erected in Banks’ honour outside their stadium, holding the Jules Rimet trophy aloft in one hand and his gloves in the other, was decorated with several Stoke and England scarves.

The surrounding area was adorned with shirts, flags and even the odd pair of goalkeeping gloves in tribute to one of the city’s favourite adopted sons.

His daughter Wendy spoke poignantly at the service and said he told her shortly before his death: “I’ve had a good innings and a great life.

Mourners watched the funeral service for Gordon Banks on big screens at the bet365 Stadium
Mourners watched the funeral service for Gordon Banks on big screens at the bet365 Stadium (Aaron Chown/PA)

“I have no regrets, I did a job I loved and would have done it for free. But don’t tell them, Wend!”

Banks’ funeral was held 47 years to the day since Stoke’s League Cup win – the second time he had won the competition, having done so with Leicester in 1964, but his only trophy with the Potters.

En route to the final, Banks memorably saved a penalty from Hurst, whose West Ham side were overcome by Stoke after a semi-final replay.

Hurst humorously suggested it was that moment – and not his wonder save from Brazil striker Pele in the 1970 World Cup – that should live long in the memory.

He added: “Gordon Banks OBE contributed to the worst moment of my footballing career.

“We often joke privately and publicly about the save from Pele but the most important save was the one that got them through (in the League Cup).

“The save against Pele wasn’t as important – we lost the game and we still qualified for the later stages of the World Cup.”

Jack Butland, front, and Joe Hart were among the pallbearers (Nick Potts/PA)
Jack Butland, front, and Joe Hart were among the pallbearers (Nick Potts/PA)

Jack Butland, Joe Anyon and Kasper Schmeichel – the current number ones at the three English clubs Banks played for, Stoke, Chesterfield and Leicester – as well as England stalwart Joe Hart served as pallbearers.

Irish author, humanitarian and media producer Don Mullan gave an emotive eulogy to a man he idolised growing up in Derry, Northern Ireland, and with whom he developed a friendship in his later years.

Mullan said: “He was not only the world’s greatest goalkeeper, I had a colossus of humanity for a mentor.

“From being a timid, fearful young boy, he taught me that impossible doesn’t exist. Unknown to him he helped save a young fan from making choices that had brought too much sorrow and sadness to Irish and British alike.

“Who knows? Perhaps it was his best save ever.”


Click here for more stories about Gordon Banks

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