Gordon Banks: Stoke's epic games against West Ham and why Bobby Moore was simply the best.
By Michael Baggaley
GORDON Banks will spend a moment thinking of his World Cup winning captain when Stoke City take on West Ham at the Britannia Stadium today.
Hammers and England legend Bobby Moore died 20 years ago this week and Stoke City president Banks still sounds slightly in awe when he recalls the only England skipper to lift the World Cup.
Banks and Moore would walk into an all-time World Football XI, so it was a privilege to hear the keeper talk about the captain at Banks's 75th birthday dinner at the Britannia this week.
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He said: "He was a great player and also a great man, a really nice guy.
"He was such a calming influence at the back. Whenever he got the ball, he hardly wasted a pass. Whether it was a long or short pass, it didn't matter, he always found his target.
"But his strong point that really stood out for me was his anticipation.
"I can picture now the opposition player with the ball just inside our half, looking for the pass.
"The centre forward would start to make a run between Big Jack Charlton and Bobby, but as soon as that ball was passed, Bobby was off.
"It might be a really good pass, but Bobby was there to intercept it and just knock it to one of our players.
"If filled me with confidence playing behind him. I also knew I could throw the ball to him and we would keep possession."
They were team mates for England as West Germany were beaten in 1966 in the most famous match in the Three Lions' history, but Moore and Banks also had some epic games when they were on opposite sides for Stoke and West Ham.
The best of all was that 1972 League Cup semi-final when Banks's incredible penalty save helped Stoke to Wembley.
Stoke lost the first leg 2-1 at home, but were 1-0 up at Upton Park when a young Harry Redknapp won a penalty for the Hammers deep into extra time.
Geoff Hurst just needed to score the spot kick to send West Ham through. He fired high, past the dive of Banks, but the keeper managed to change direction in mid-air and make a reflex save to touch the ball over.
Stoke had held on, and would eventually go through after a second replay at Old Trafford.
Banks, who lives in Madeley, recalls: "It was great to make that save against West Ham, especially because that would have knocked us out if it had gone in.
"My main memory is actually after I had made the save and pushed it out for a corner. All the lads were jumping on me and congratulating me, and meanwhile West Ham were taking the corner.
"I was shouting the lads to get off me and pushing them away because the game was still going on."
It wasn't the only time Banks and Stoke got the better of Moore and West Ham in a thriller.
On October 7 1967, Stoke were 3-0 down to West Ham by half time at Upton Park, seemingly down and out after two goals from Geoff Hurst and one from his fellow World Cup winner Martin Peters.
Incredibly, Stoke came back as four second half goals, two apiece from Harry Burrows and Peter Dobing, gave Tony Waddington's side a 4-3 win.
Banks says a calm Waddington had simply told the dejected Stoke players to stick to their footballing principles at half time.
He said: "That was some comeback. When Tony got us in the dressing room at half time, he didn't give us a rollicking. He just said: "Now look, you can play better than this. Get yourselves out there, get playing and you can do it." Sure enough we did!
Banks was one of Waddington's finest buys, costing £50,000 from Leicester City in 1967, just a year after he'd won the World Cup.
Leicester had a young Peter Shilton waiting to take over in goal, but even so it was a huge surprise when Foxes boss Matt Gillies agreed to sell Banks, not least to Banks himself.
He said: "I had seen Peter Shilton train so I knew he was a good goalkeeper.
"But we had just won the World Cup, I was only 28 and I'd not yet reached my peak.
"I had seen reports in the paper that Peter had put Leicester under pressure because he wanted away if he wasn't in the first team. But I just ignored it because I thought there was no way Leicester would let someone who was playing for England go.
"But at the training ground one day, the manager pulled me over and said 'What do you think about leaving?'
"I was aghast and said, 'if that's what you think about me, I'll go."
That was quite a stroke of luck for Stoke, who Banks would serve with distinction for 246 appearances from 1967-72.
He was a Potter when he played in the 1970 World Cup and made THAT save from Pele. Mind you, even at the peak of Banks's career, Sir Alf Ramsey never let him or any player take their places for granted.
Banks rates Ramsey as a brilliant motivator, recalling: "Regardless of how well you had played in your last international, he wanted you to keep playing well and not relying on your last international game to hold on to your place.
"He used to make a point of thanking all the players in the squad before they went home, whether they had played or not, for coming and being part of it.
"I remember him shaking everyone's hand and thanking them after one game, so I stuck out my hand and said 'see you Alf'.
"He looked at me and said 'Oh you will, will you?"
"In other words, he didn't want me just picking myself for the next game. He wanted to make sure every player went back to their club and carried on playing to the best of their ability."
Ramsey stuck with Banks of course, and the keeper needn't worry either about his standing as a Stoke City legend.
His 75th birthday dinner was sold out within 24 hours of tickets going on sale as supporters took the opportunity to pay tribute to a true great of the game.
"I can't believe I'm the age I am; I don't feel it," he added. The years have absolutely flown by."