Gordon Banks would take the No 1 shirt in many people's all-time world's best XI, but as told in Banksy: My Autobiography
, the "cat" who had even Pele shaking his head in admiration, struggled against illness and accident during his career, and found the going tough once he'd hung up his gloves. The England mainstay, whose 17-year career in British football was spent with just three clubs, reflects on a very different game than today's big-money business. As Banks tells it, goalkeeping was a different business too--no gloves, no Kevlar-reinforced elbow pads, half the domestic season played in ankle deep mud, and very little official protection from the marauding centre forwards who prided themselves on serving the keeper a full mid-air body check early in a game. Wits and courage mattered, as much as technique, and with goalkeeping coaches unheard of, Banks recalls that he was forced to learn his craft out on the pitch--not always with success.
He became a master, of course, whose exploits are part of the game's folklore--the save-of-all-time against Brazil in 1970; George Best flicking the ball out of his hands to "score" in 1971; the 1972 car crash that robbed him of sight in one eye, and that 1966 World Cup triumph. There's humour too, notably the episode when, furthering his playing career in the emerging US super league, Banks is examined by a Stateside club doctor, who struggles with the idea that an athlete who's got several metal plates in his body, can't quite touch his toes, and has no vision in one eye, could really by an asset to the team--let alone a goalkeeping great.
But whatever plaudits Banks received as a player, retirement was far from plain sailing. An ill-fated career in management followed, which ended in farce when Telford United dismissed Banks, but unwilling, or unable to pay off the remains of his contract, tried to force the World Cup hero to resign by assigning him to sell raffle tickets from a concession booth the club leased in a local supermarket. Happier times were to follow, notably as a member of the Pools Panel, but this part of the Banks' story, including his decision to sell off his 1966 winner's medal and memorabilia, is largely glossed over--an absence that is a poignant counterpoint to his reflections on the glory years. --Alex Hankin
Banksy is the story of a genuine English hero and a stirring, insider's account of England's finest years.