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Banks among the greatest, says Jennings

 

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Tributes: Gordon Banks, who has passed away

Tributes: Gordon Banks, who has passed away

Tributes: Gordon Banks, who has passed away

Northern Ireland legend Pat Jennings has saluted Gordon Banks as the greatest goalkeeper of his era.

Jennings was among many football icons keen to pay tribute to the 1966 World Cup winning stopper who has passed away, aged 81.

Banks, a world champion 53 years ago, is best remembered for a save from Pele at the 1970 World Cup.

Jennings, who played against Banks at international level, said that studying the Englishman in action improved his own game.

"All the keepers who played in his era tried to emulate him," said Northern Ireland's most capped international with 119 appearances. He set the standard. He was just so steady week in, week out. He was the greatest.

"Look at the pitches he played on. They were bumpy and muddy, and he coped with that, dealt with that problem. And remember that he also just wore cotton gloves, or no gloves at all.

"In those days there was no such thing as goalkeeping coaches. You learned by watching other keepers. Bill Nicholson (former Spurs manager) got me tickets to all of England's games in the 1966 World Cup Finals, including the final, so I could watch Gordon in action. Bill said it was part of the learning process."

Jennings added: “My favourite save by Gordon was the one he made from (Brazil superstar) Pele’s header during the 1970 World Cup Finals. The degree of difficulty involved, and the flight of the ball, meant it was just incredible,” he said.

Three-time World Cup winner Pele said: “That act was the start of a friendship between us that I will always treasure. Whenever we met, it was always like we had never been apart.”

Jennings made his name at Tottenham and Arsenal, with whom he faced Leicester and Stoke’s Banks on several occasions.

“Gordon was an absolute gentleman and always had time for a chat. He was so down to earth and was just a lovely bloke. He will be sorely missed,” Jennings told the Irish FA.

Sir Bobby Charlton, who was part of the team alongside Banks that won the World Cup in 1966, said: “Gordon was a fantastic goalkeeper, without doubt one of the best England has ever had.

“I was proud to call him a team-mate. Obviously we shared that great day in 1966 but it was more than that.

“Even though I was on the pitch and have seen it many times since, I still don’t know how he saved that header from Pele.”

Banks’ successor as England’s number one Peter Shilton joined the praise by hailing his rival and friend.

“Gordon was my hero when I was a youngster watching Leicester City on the terrace,” he said. “I eventually joined the club and quickly became his understudy at 16.

“I trained with him for about a year once a week and he was always helpful, he was always a gentleman. We had a friendship — we were rivals as well, but we had a friendship — and it’s just so tragic that he’s finally gone.

“I know he hadn’t been very well, but it’s hit me quite hard that he’s actually passed away.”

Manchester United favourite Peter Schmeichel added to those sentiments, tweeting: “So sad to hear that Gordon Banks, one of my heroes and a true legend in life and football, has passed away. An inspiration, a winner and a true gentleman.”

Belfast Telegraph