Posted: Tue Jul 10, 2018 5:56 am
Anyone getting excited about this? HB??
Files and Facts about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann
Yes, I think Gareth Southgate has done an incredible job in welding a young team that buzzes and fizzes. To be just two matches away from a world cup final is a remarkable achievement. The man in the waistcoat should be very proud, as should his team.
Gordon Banks is (seemingly recovering) from an operation for kidney-cancer.Gordon Banks has been carrying out a ritual for the past three weeks, one he intends to repeat before England’s kick-off against Croatia.
He seeks his most treasured possession, opens a small box and stares proudly at that rare souvenir: a World Cup winners’ medal. “I have been looking at my medal quite a bit,” confides the 80-year-old. “I like to do so occasionally, but especially when there is a tournament on. I’ll definitely be doing so on Wednesday. I hope it brings them a bit of luck.”
There are other mementos Banks wishes he could cherish from English football’s finest hour. Sadly, many stricken heroes of 1966 felt compelled to part with those precious reminders.
Shirts, boots and winners’ medals have been sacrificed amid financial strife. History regards Sir Alf Ramsey’s champions reverentially, but dewy-eyed nostalgia cannot disguise their enduring sense of marginalisation.
When asked if he would like to be in Russia supporting England, Banks sighs. He reveals how let down he and his team-mates have felt over 52 years, his hurt shifting from moving to enraging.
“I am not sure if I will get invited to the final in Russia if we get there. I would like to be, yes,” he says. “It was Fifa who organised my being able to go out there for the World Cup draw. I went over there, but I have been very, very disappointed with the FA and what they could have done for us.
Banks was a key part of the last England team to win the World Cup CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES
“I hope if these guys succeed they feel more appreciated by the FA than we were. They should be. They will have deserved it. The FA have done nothing for us.
“We used to be able to get together ourselves, which Geoff Hurst organised. We would arrange a date for the players and their wives, where the lads could have a game of golf and our wives would go shopping. We’d have a dinner at the hotel and stay overnight. We did that for a good few years, but so much has happened to the players now. A few suffer from Alzheimer’s, a few others we have lost. Geoff had to stop it. We all felt sad about that.”
The FA, for its part, insists it will not make any decisions about who might be invited to the final until the conclusion of the semi-final.
On the flurry of medal sales by his team-mates, Banks can recount his own experience. “There have been a lot of things like that,” he says. “In my case it was my shirt. That was 10 or 15 years ago. I still have my medal.
“The current players may be appreciated more because it is such a long time since we had this kind of success. It is so long since we won it or got to a final, so maybe it will seem better for them.
“As professionals, they are already being more rewarded. You have to remember when I turned professional I was earning £20 a week. We just felt fortunate to be professional footballers. That was our life.”
Lack of understanding from the governing body can be traced back to the victorious night of the World Cup final. When the players prepared for their celebratory dinner at the team hotel they were informed it was a strictly male affair.
“We had not seen our wives for five or six weeks,” recalls Banks. “They were waiting for us back at the hotel after the game and I said, ‘Come on, get ready to go downstairs’. Turns out the wives were not invited. They all had to stay in the rooms until we were finished.”
Gareth Southgate claims a World Cup win now would provoke levels of appreciation to eclipse 1966. Banks agrees. “I don’t remember it being like this,” he says. “There was nowhere near as much on the television or the newspapers. You would hear some of the pubs were a bit fuller, but nothing like you see now. To be fair, we spent most of the time in the hotel so did not really know. We just trained, had a meal and relaxed.
“I remember Sir Alf took us to the cinema one day. There were a few messages of good luck when we saw people in the street but nothing too much. Obviously, the crowds gathered on the day we won. I can remember the traffic being brought to a standstill as the fans celebrated around Hyde Park.
“What was special for me was seeing my dad and getting a big hug from him.
“I took my medal home to him in Sheffield. He said to me, ‘Come on, then. We’ll show everyone’. He took me around to about four nearby pubs where I could meet some of his mates. They all wanted a look at it and shook my hand. I sat down with them all and enjoyed it. That was where you saw how if you win, it lifts the country.”
There is always a danger of overstaying in the resort of cliche when comparing football of the 1960s to now, but even upon meeting Banks there is an immediate insight into the modesty of England’s ageing sporting gods.
We met at Stoke’s Holiday Inn, home to the Gordon Banks Suite. Upon Banks’s arrival, a young receptionist looked in bewilderment at the suggestion the suite was ideal for the interview.
Not even my reference to one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time sparked recognition, Banks too humble to embarrass the oblivious employee by identifying himself, instead politely accepting an alternative arrangement in the dining room.
For all the melancholy about lost team-mates and a sluggish FA, this was an overwhelmingly upbeat conversation lauding Southgate’s England revival.
“I still get as excited now as I always have,” he says. “I have really enjoyed watching it. I like the way we started the competition and how we have kept looking better with each game. Now we are in the semi-final there is a lot of belief we can do it.
Banks says the 1966 World Cup heroes no longer meet regularly CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES
“You always feel more confident once you get to this stage because you have built up the results.”
Naturally, one player is worthy of Bank’s particular praise. “I would really love to wish Jordan Pickford all the best and tell him keep doing exactly what you are doing because he is playing really well,” says Banks.
“He can bring that trophy back to England. I have to be honest – and this is not just Stoke bias – I thought Jack Butland would get into the team.
“He had been playing really well. Then in the first two matches there was not a lot for our goalkeeper to do. What changed it was the first save he made against Colombia – the shot that was going right into the top corner before the end. I don’t know how he bloody made that save.
“The other save that most impressed me was against Sweden, the shot low to the bottom corner. After those saves, I saw why the manager thought he was the one. He has played really well.”
Not too small then, Gordon? “He has agility. That is the main thing for a goalkeeper,” he says.
“I have seen one or two outstanding keepers in this tournament, but also a few mistakes. Even De Gea made a mistake. I feel sorry for the goalkeepers since they changed the ball. They are so light now. The Uruguay keeper who made the error against France – when it went through his hands – it was the flight of the ball that caused that. They can put so much curl on these new balls.”
Banks offered a theory as to why Southgate has succeeded where predecessors failed.
“I have always felt when some England teams have reached tournaments, they have not had the advantage we had of playing a long time together,” he says.
“We spent a lot of time with basically the same team and style. We played a lot of friendlies, travelled abroad and got used to each other. We had played a lot of games unbeaten against strong countries. Once Sir Alf had the side he wanted – and most importantly it was winning – he was not for changing. It did not matter how much people said he should change, there was no way.
“Even in the tournament itself, once Jimmy Greaves picked up an injury and Geoff [Hurst] came in and started scoring, he would keep a winning team even when Jimmy was back. That was so unlucky for Jimmy.
“But we were a team. We would help each other for 90 minutes. That is when England, any team for that matter, is at its best. When all those out there are playing for each other. Maybe we have not always had that.
“I see people talk of a ‘Band of Brothers’ in the squad now. Oh aye, we were that.
“The Argentina quarter-final in 1966 showed you that. All the years I played football I had never seen anything like that. [Antonio] Rattin trying to take the whole team off with him and the officials trying to stop him. That was the most intense game in which I played. Nothing came even close to that.
“After we won, I got to the dressing room when through the glass door came a chair. It smashed and there was glass everywhere. There were eight of their players outside wanting us to go out and fight them.
“We had plenty of lads wanting to take them on. I can remember Nobby (Stiles) standing alongside Jack Charlton, the pair of them shouting, ‘Send the bastards in here’. The police came and pushed them back into their dressing room.
“It never got out at the time because Sir Alf sat us all down and said to us, ‘Listen, this never leaves this room.’ No-one would ever go against him. It wasn’t until Sir Alf died people thought they could tell the story.
“That match reminded me a little watching the Colombia game. Some of the tackling was shocking. It is weird how the officials allow so much of it.”
As one of the few Englishman who knows how to win a World Cup semi-final, it would be remiss not to ask for a final piece of advice about dealing with the pressure.
“Pressure? I don’t think so,” says Banks. “It is sport. You are playing to win. Whether it is Saturday for your club or in the World Cup for your country you had to approach it the same. Of course there were extra nerves depending on the game. You could never change that. But I always found they were worse in the dressing room.
‘‘Getting ready was tense. So was standing in the tunnel and listening to the national anthem. Once I was in the goal and that whistle blew, that was it. I could just play then.”
For the 2018 generation, the financial rewards and superstar status will be greater than 1966, but the most cherished prize of all is universal.
“I have great-grandchildren and they are proud I was the England goalkeeper when we won the World Cup. They love looking at the medal,” says Banks.
If that medal has two more pre-match appearances this week, England’s elite band of brothers will have 23 new recruits.
England play Croatia at 19:00 UK time. So I gather you have to be up at 02:00 where you are.Chinagirl wrote: ↑Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:36 amThank you for posting that interesting article, HB.
Even here in Oz we're getting pretty excited on England's behalf. I have looked at the schedule and it seems tonight's semi-final against Croatia is at 9.00pm UK time (Wed. evening), which means 04.00 Thursday morning here. Hope that's right because I plan to set my alarm to get up in time to watch it.
Good luck to the Poms! (Easy to say when it's not the Ashes!)
Yes, shocking.Chinagirl wrote: ↑Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:40 amHere is a shockingly sobering statistic.
Whether or not the national team beats the Croatians, Thursday night in England is likely to be messy and violent for many people. According to police data, domestic violence increases 26 per cent when England play. It goes up 38 per cent when England lose.
http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/ ... up/9972380
Everyone who knows something about football has said that they have done very well to get to the stage they did. They should be proud. And when, one day, they lift that trophy, it will be even sweeter.