Bob Wilson: Gordon Banks made the goal shrink – that Pele save encapsulated everything that was great about him

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AS well as being an outstanding player with both Arsenal and Scotland during his long and enormously successful professional career, Bob Wilson has another claim to fame.

Wilson became the first specialist goalkeeping coach in British football after he hung up his gloves back in 1974 and performed the role at Highbury for no fewer than 28 years.

He never had to think too hard when he was advising his charges who they should try to emulate in the position – the legendary England internationalist Gordon Banks was always his exemplar.

The grainy footage of Banks producing his famous save from Pele in the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico has been posted on social media and shown on television numerous times today.

Wilson, who admitted he was “heartbroken” at the death of his friend and former opponent at the age of 81 today, feels the moment summed up everything that was great about the iconic figure.

“The goal is a great big chasm,” he said. “It is eight yards by eight feet. It is 192 square feet. You only have to stand on that goal line and look at how big it is to think ‘how does anybody ever save a shot?’

“But Banksy, like all the great goalkeepers, made the goal shrink. He did it with good positional play, incredible footwork, fast hands, intelligence and presence.

“The Pele save encapsulates everything that is required from a goalkeeper. It shows good positional play – he was just a yard, half a yard, outside his near post when the ball was crossed over by Jairzinho. Then he uses amazing footwork and miraculous handwork to deny Pele.

“You could show any young aspiring goalkeeper that save and say to them ‘that incorporates everything that you will need’. Banksy was a marvel. There are hundreds of goalkeepers who owe their careers, good, great or unremarkable, to him and will say ‘Gordon Banks was my inspiration’.”

Wilson, who became well-known for presenting Football Focus, Grandstand and Match of the Day for the BBC after his playing days had ended, revealed he had been inspired by Banks as a teenager himself.

“Gordon’s first club was Chesterfield where I was from,” he said. “I was an aspiring young goalie and he was the goalkeeper for my local team. So I used to go and stand behind his goal. I would change ends at half-time just so I could see him close up.

“It was easy to see he wasn’t going to be there very long. He was different. He had springs in his heels. He had an incredible agility. He was almost like a gymnast. He was an inspiration. You could tell he was going to go a long way.”

His suspicions were proved correct. After just a season at Chesterfield, Banks moved on to Leicester in 1959. He won the League Cup during his eight seasons at Filbert Street. He joined Stoke City in 1967 and lifted the League Cup once again in 1972.

However, it was at international level that he became a household name. He won 73 caps in total and helped Sir Alf Ramsey’s team beat West Germany after extra-time to win the World Cup at Wembley in 1966.

Wilson, who coached David Seaman during his time at Arsenal, feels he is best his country ever produced and one of the best of all-time. “He is the greatest English goalie ever simply because he is only the English goalie ever to win the World Cup,” he said.

Wilson, though, also remembers Banks, whose career was brought to a premature end when he lost his right eye in a car accident in 1972, as being as affable and approachable off the park as he was bold and brilliant on it.

“Banksy was always incredibly humble,” he said. “Although he was frustrated that he only won the League Cup at club level, he was grateful for what football had given him. He was a gentleman, always very friendly. I am very privileged and proud to have got to know him.”