It has been called the “save of the century" and, fittingly, it was made by one of the finest goalkeepers the world has ever seen.
It is, of course, Gordon Banks’ block from Pelé’s goalbound header against Brazil in the 1970 World Cup. Afterwards, Pelé said: “Banks came from nowhere. I was already shouting ‘Goooal!’ when, like a salmon leaping up a waterfall, he threw himself to tip the ball over the crossbar. It was an impossible play.”
But such heroics had come to be expected from ‘Banksie’. He had been spotted as a youth playing for a Sheffield works team by Chesterfield, and played just 23 games for the Spireites when Leicester City came calling in the 1958/59 season. He developed into one of the best 'keepers in the country at Filbert Street, spending eight years there and helping the Foxes win the League Cup in 1964.
The Leicester stopper’s strengths were his superb positional sense, command of his area and cat-like reflexes, and these meant he became a fixture in the England goal for nine years after his first appearance against Scotland in 1963.
Banks was instrumental in the team’s 1966 World Cup triumph, not conceding a goal until the semi-final against Portugal – and that was a penalty. Up to that game Banks had kept seven consecutive clean sheets for the national side, and his performances in the tournament earned him the tag ‘safe as the Banks of England’.
Banks helped England reach the last four of the European Championship in 1968, but unfortunately missed the team’s quarter-final exit from the 1970 World Cup at the hands of West Germany after he suffered an upset stomach the night before the match.
He continued to make regular appearances for England until he sadly lost the sight in his right eye in a car accident in 1972, ending his top-flight career.
Altogether he played for the national team 73 times, keeping 35 clean sheets and conceding just 57 goals. But for his miracle in Mexico, it would undoubtedly have been 58.