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The greatest goalkeeper West Ham never had

Filed: Tuesday, 12th February 2019
By: Staff Writer

Football fans the length and breadth of the country are mourning the passing of England legend Gordon Banks, who has passed away aged 81.

Banks, who kept goal from England between 1963 and 1972 spent the majority of a long and successful career as goalkeeper for Leicester and Stoke City.

However legend tells that he could've been playing domestically alongside fellow 1966 heroes Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters - had then-manager Ron Greenwood not refused to renege on an agreement to sign Bobby Ferguson from Scottish side Kilmarnock.

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Greenwood, who had been in discussion with Leicester regarding potentially signing Banks became frustrated at how long negotiations were taking and with the need for a new goalkeeper to replace Jim Standen becoming ever more urgent, turned instead to Ferguson.

Discussion with Killies boss Malcolm MacDonald - a former team mate of Greenwood's at Brentford - were short and successful, at the end of which Greenwood agreed to pay a world-record fee of 65,000 for the Scottish stopper just as soon as their Fairs Cup (a forerunner of the Europa League) campaign had ended.

Yet shortly after the two shook hands on the deal, Leicester boss Matt Gillies contacted Greenwood to say that Leicester had agreed to sell Banks to West Ham for just 50,000 - little more than a year after the 'keeper had starred for England in the 1966 World Cup Final.

In retrospect Greenwood's decision to reject Leicester's offer may appear short-sighted but always a man of principal, Greenwood had already given Kilmarnock and Ferguson his word - hence the Banks deal was cancelled.

Banks, who had been keen to team up with his three World Cup-winning team mates signed instead for Stoke City - and instead of playing behind behind Bobby Moore, was to face him as an opposing goalkeeper when West Ham and Stoke met in an epic four-game League Cup semi final in 1972.

Moore, who replaced the injured Ferguson in the second replay of an incredible semi-final was to save a penalty from City's Mike Bernard only to see the Stoke man bundle home the rebound, to his enormous relief.

That followed a spot kick save by Banks against England colleague Geoff Hurst in the second leg of the tie at the Boleyn Ground. Yet despite Moore's heroics, Banks and Stoke were to reach the final after winning the second replay at Old Trafford by three goals to two.

One wonders just how much Banks' signing would have improved West Ham, who already featured Moore, Peters and Hurst alongside promising youngsters such as Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard and Trevor Brooking.

Yet because of Greenwood's admirable reluctance to renege on an agreement with Kilmarnock, West Ham supporters would never have the opportunity to find out.

RIP Gordon Banks, 1937-2019.

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