The moment our Gordon halted the world’s best

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SHEFFIELD-born Gordon Banks is a World Cup-winning goalkeeper, but his career is remembered for one moment that did not take place during the 1966 tournament.

“Everybody talks about the one and only save; I think it’s the only one I ever made in my career,” Banks says. ‘That’ save is the one where Banks denied Pele, arguably the greatest exponent of football, during the 1970 World Cup finals.

As the right-wing cross from Jairzinho drifted to the back post and was met powerfully by Pele, a goal seemed certain.

The intervention of Tinsley-raised Banks, his instinctive reaction and firm palm, is imprinted on the memory for all who saw it and the generations since who have watched it on YouTube.

“Wherever I go people bring that up all the time,” the 75-year-old said. “After all these years I cannot believe people still talk about it. Even kids. I get letters from kids in China. Even they’re talking about it. After I got my hand to it, I thought it was going in. I didn’t know where it had gone. Then I saw it bounce behind the goal.

“It was an important save because it was 0-0.

“That gave the lads a lift. We played as good a football in that game as they did, created more chances to score goals, but we didn’t put one away and they did and beat us 1-0.

“I thought we were going to meet them further on in the tournament; they would’ve been a little bit uneasy about meeting us after that game. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be.”

England’s World Cup defence was ended by West Germany in the quarter-finals, while Brazil won the tournament.

“That was the greatest footballing machine I’ve ever seen play, that 1970 Brazilian team out in Mexico in that World Cup,” Banks added. “It was a thrill to watch this lovely, flowing football. Playing against it was awesome.”

Banks was speaking at the 50th anniversary of the Football Pools Panel.