The sad news of the passing of England’s 1966 World Cup goalkeeper Gordon Banks was met with deserved universal praise from the football world. Gordon was the best goalkeeper in the world in the golden years at the end of the 1960s and had a major influence on Leicester City and Stoke City as well as the England national team.
Gordon had some memorable matches against the Sky Blues playing for both Midland clubs and also played at Highfield Road in Bill Glazier’s testimonial game, two years after his tragic car accident in 1972.
By the time of his first appearance at Highfield Road in December 1964 Gordon was a veteran of over 200 games for Leicester including two losing FA Cup final appearances. He had won his first England cap in 1963 and had immediately established himself as England’s number 1. The League Cup quarter final draw had paired the Foxes with the Sky Blues and although Coventry were fresh out of Division Three they fancied their chances of causing a shock against their mid-table First Division rivals.
Banks had a relatively quiet night as his forwards took advantage of George Curtis’s early injury to hammer Jimmy Hill’s team 8-1, the club’s biggest post war defeat. The only shot that got past him was a George Hudson overhead kick for a consolation goal.
Two months earlier City had paid a world goalkeeper record fee of £35,000 for Bill Glazier but Bob Wesson was the unfortunate ‘keeper that night, standing in for the cup tied Glazier. Glazier was already in England manager Alf Ramsey’s thoughts having made his Under 23 debut a week before the Leicester game. By the spring of 1965 the impressive Glazier was being tipped to be part of Alf’s 1966 World Cup squad after three clean sheets for the Under 23s. Tragedy struck at Maine Road on Easter Saturday when Bill broke his leg in a clash with Manchester City’s Glyn Pardoe. The serious break kept him out for a year and his World Cup hopes were dashed.
I’m not suggesting that Glazier would have taken Banks’s place in the 1966 tournament but he would have made a valuable number two to Gordon.
By the time City were promoted to Division One in 1967 Gordon had left Leicester for Stoke and the Sky Blues had the Indian sign over the Potters for two seasons with Gordon letting in three goals in successive seasons at the Victoria Ground. In the 1968-69 season he was in goal for Stoke as City, inspired for once by the twin strikers Tony Hateley and Neil Martin, recorded a 3-0 victory.
That defeat apart Gordon generally looked the top class ‘keeper he was when facing the Sky Blues and usually had good protection from some fearsome defenders such as Dennis Smith, Alan Bloor and Eric Skeels. One exception was the game at Highfield Road in December 1970. A dour game was decided by a weak John O’Rourke header which slipped embarrassingly past Gordon’s left leg. Coming months after his wonder save from Pele’s header in Guadalajara six months earlier it was a stunner for everyone.
After the car accident in 1972 that cost Gordon the sight in one eye he never played competitive football in England again. However he did turn out in Glazier’s testimonial in 1974 alongside eight others from the 1966 final with only Bobby Charlton and Nobby Stiles not appearing. The ever so friendly game ended 6-6 with Glazier emerging from goal for the last 10 minutes to score two goals but no one cared about the result. Despite letting in six goals City fans had seen the finest English goalkeeper of all time make a final bow.
Talking of goalkeepers I have to mention David Stockdale’s appearance as an emergency loan at Rochdale last week. He put in an impressive performance as the Sky Blues finally recorded a victory at Spotland at the tenth attempt in almost 100 years not least with his superb save from Henderson in the second half. Unless Lee Burge is unable to return from injury today against Walsall Stockdale will join the ‘one game heroes club’ joining Steve Murcott and Mick Harford. Murcott was the youth team goalkeeper who, in 1979, was called out of the stands when Jim Blyth ricked his back in the warm up prior to the home game with Norwich. He kept a clean sheet as City won 2-0 but never played for the first team again. Harford, the current manager of runaway leaders Luton, was signed by Bobby Gould in 1993 and came on for his debut as a substitute in a home game with Newcastle with 16 minutes remaining. He scored the winning goal five minutes from time with a looping header but a back injury meant he never played in a Sky Blue shirt again.