“No regrets… except I wish I’d been a better driver” – Gordon Banks, RIP

It was a thrill and an honour to meet up with the great Gordon Banks of Leicester City and England, near to his home in Stoke. Here are exclusive extracts from a generous, modest and inspirational interview that provided some of the finest moments in both Glove Story and Can’t Buy That Feeling. 

First things first, could we take you back to 1959, when you first appeared on most football fans’ radar?

“I’ll try. When you get to my age, your memory’s not so clever, and that was over 50 years ago. I’d played professionally for around half a season in the Third Division when the Chesterfield manager had me in and told me they’d had an offer from Leicester, which they had accepted – and would I be interested in going? I said yes, thank you, straight away. It was a big opportunity to go and play in the top league.”

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Were you nervous when you quickly got the chance to step up from the reserves?

“Well, yes. Pre-match nerves were there every time you played. Especially when you’re sitting in the dressing room and just about to go out. Even when you’re shooting in. But as soon as the whistle went you had to push all that behind you and concentrate on your game.”

What was goalkeeper training like back in the early 60s?

“There was none of the specialist goalkeeper training then. I had to do the outfield training, Run the laps, do all the exercises, and then we’d finish up with five-a-side. But because we didn’t have an actual training ground then, we had to play on the Filbert Street car park. I couldn’t dive about on that surface so I didn’t go in goal, I played outfield. A few years later, when they got the training ground, that gave me the opportunity to go back in the afternoon. The lads finished training at lunchtime, so I had to get some of the apprentices and reserves to come back in the afternoon and bang some balls at me.”

Goalkeeping experts always talk about your positional sense. Was that something that came naturally to you, or did you have to work on it?

“You have to work on it to get it to the highest level. Those long afternoons helped me quite a lot. But just as important was all those many hours spent playing as a boy, maybe playing with a tiny ball or whatever. Even if you were playing against an old shed, you’d still be learning where to stand in a given situation. You didn’t realise at the time you were learning about angles.”

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After two FA Cup finals and winning the League Cup with City, you got your first England call-up.

“I was down at the ground when I found out about it. Matt Gillies, the manager, came into our snooker room, shook me by the hand and said, ‘Congratulations, you’re in the England team.’ I couldn’t quite believe it as the squad hadn’t even assembled yet. Obviously, Alf must have said something to him. It as a something of a shock and a great delight. I remember feeling very, very proud.”

Your international debut was against Scotland at Wembley. A nice easy one to start with?

“Oh crikey, not half! Every single time we played Scotland over the years, no matter whether at Wembley or Hampden, it was a really tough game. About 90 per cent of the Scots played in the English First Division so they were always a match for us. We lost 2-1. They got a penalty past me, and I was feeling quite down, but Alf Ramsey came up to me and said, ‘Well played.” That gave me a bit of a lift and I was pleased that he’d seen something in my game.”

Do you still get asked about 1966 every day of your life?

“What can you say that would describe how it feels to win the World Cup? It was a fantastic feeling. I knew I had lots of years left in the game, as I’d trained well and worked hard, so at the time I didn’t see it as the pinnacle of my career. I thought that both England and Leicester City would push on from there and get better. Both were good set-ups with players coming to the best part of their careers. I thought really that was just the beginning.”

But that season after the World Cup was your last at Leicester.

“I’d seen Peter Shilton occasionally while he was playing for Leicester City Boys and then he got in the England Schoolboys side. I saw him in the gym – two mats down, with trainer George Dewis banging balls at him. I watched him for five minutes and I thought, bloody hell, this lad has got some real technique here!” When he signed as an apprentice, he’d join in on the little goalkeeping sessions that I organised.”

How did you feel when you were transfer-listed?

“I was shocked and amazed. I couldn’t believe that they’d want to get rid of me. I’d seen this report in the paper where Peter was supposed to have said to the board: “I either want first-team football, or I want to leave.” When I saw that, I laughed. I thought, I’ve played for England and won a World Cup. Does he honestly think they’re going to drop me and put him in? A couple of weeks later, Matt Gillies came to the training ground, which he never, ever did. We were running around the track, warming up. Before he even said a word, I knew exactly what was going to happen. He told me: ‘The board have had a meeting. What would you think about leaving?’ Straight away, I knew it was done, so I replied: “Well, if that’s all you think about me then I’ll go. It really shook me up – children, friends, social scene – we were really settled.”

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What were your options at that time?

“I’d heard rumours that Liverpool wanted me. Roger Hunt said don’t sign for anyone because Bill Shankly is going to come in for you. Many years later, he did tell me that he went to his board but they refused him the money. Martin Peters told me that West Ham wanted me, but they signed Bobby Ferguson from Kilmarnock for £57,000 three weeks before I was put on the list. That was a lot of money. Stoke paid £50,000 for me.”

Do you think you’d enjoy playing in the modern game?

“If you’re talking about the work a goalkeeper has to do now, then no. If you’re talking about the money, then yes! They’ve made it very difficult for goalkeepers now, with the light ball and people standing purposefully in front of the keeper at a corner. It’s pure obstruction.”

Do you have any regrets? Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

“I wish I’d been a better driver! Although my career was cut short by my accident in 1972, I did go on to have a good few more years in the game, coaching at Stoke and playing in the NASL. No, to have a life in professional football was fabulous. Playing in front of thousands of people, enjoying every minute, and travelling all over the world into the bargain. Wearing the England shirt with that badge on it and standing there singing the National Anthem, I can’t possibly have any regrets.”

Glove Story: The Number 1 Book for Every Goalkeeper, Past and Present, and Can’t Buy That Feeling: Inside Leicester City – The Best of the Fox Interviews are available from ConkerEditions.co.uk

 

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QPR fans in Vietnam War programme reunion – Got, Not Got hits the headlines

Got, Not Got hit the BBC headlines last week.

Longtime fan, Radio 5 Live’s Adrian Chiles, somehow managed to track down a Vietnam veteran QPR fan and the 11-year-old lad who responded to his request for Superhoops programmes in the jungle back in 1969 – as originally unearthed in Got, Not Got 1.  vietnam vet qprHere’s links to the amazing story – QPR Match Programmes Kept Me Sane, Says Vietnam Veteran – and tearjerking interviews, nominated by Chiles as his favourite ever in the history of his show.

“Luminously brilliant,” Adrian said on the show of a certain A-Z of Football Treasures and Pleasures. “I can’t recommend it highly enough. Get a present for yourself or for a football fan for Xmas.” (That bit didn’t make it into the BBC’s news story, though but!)

We’ll find out from Adrian and his top team of researchers if Nils the Vet and John the Kid (he isn’t still 11) ever got to see the book. Maybe we could send them copies to help them maintain a chipper disposition?

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Help!? Your pics wanted for new Got, Not Got Xmas Gift Book…

The Got, Not Got Football Gift Book will be out in 2019 – the latest in the series of nostalgia, memorabilia and memory fests that kicked off with Got, Not Got back in the days of fat tellies and black boots. 

Getting right back to the Aladdin’s Cave vibe of the original book, the Gift Book is a big fun A4 romp through fan treasures and football culture. It’s based on an old-school catalogue, with sections covering kit, fan fashions, tech, games, home, food & drink, transport & travel, stickers, programmes and loads more irresistible stuff. And that’s where you come in…

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Here’s a few categories where your old snaps might just end up as the stars of the show, with you out on the catalogue catwalk.

1 – It’s an old favourite that crops up in almost all the books, but there’s always room for more pics of kids in kits…

2 – Got any old pics of you or your mates in the football fashions of the day? No matter whether they feature bobbles and scarves, shell suits, full kit outings or more cultish gear – mod, skinhead, suedehead, cazh, bovver boy, you name it – we’d love to feature your football fashions

3 – Cool pics of old grounds – no matter whether they were taken from the stands, or of chunks of your old club’s stadium once you’d got them home!

4 – Finally, has anybody got any pics of opening prezzies on Christmas morning?

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Meanwhile, don’t hold back on stuff for any of the other categories. Get in touch! We’ve already got tons of must-have catalogue items, pics and adverts, but anything unusual or hilarious will fit the bill.

Thanks!

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New Leicester City book: Can’t Buy That Feeling

Can’t Buy That Feeling: Inside Leicester City is the latest book from the Got, Not Got team, published by Conker Editions. It features over 100 interviews with City stars of the past 60 years, first published in the pages of The FOX, one of Britain’s longest-running fanzines.

The book offers incredible access behind the scenes at the LCFC soap opera, revealing the thoughts, memories and real personalities of our royal blue heroes. Needless to say, it’s an emotional journey…

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The FOX has been interviewing Leicester City players, managers, famous fans and board members for almost three decades, building up a body of work that takes you right into the very fabric of the club, with memories spanning the last 60 years.

As a City fan, you’ve come to know hundreds of players through their performance on the pitch, through potted career biographies and football sticker images. But what about the real characters behind the blue shirts and the back-page reports?

Can’t Buy That Feeling takes you inside Leicester City from the perspective of those who were there – behind the scenes at the long-running soap opera packed with comedy and tragedy, triumph and disaster, financial ruin and amazing title wins.

An exciting, colourful take on Leicester City history with countless fan talking points. Read the best of The FOX interviews and you will discover:

  • How it feels to score a last-minute winner at Wembley
  • Who bore the brunt of Stan Collymore’s fire extinguisher
  • How it feels to be a World Cup winner, and axed by Leicester City
  • Which City star was run out of his local for moving to Leicester
  • The identity of the City player who chased members of the Chelsea team down the tunnel.
  • Players’ big-match memories, their real opinions of their bosses, team-mates and fans.

 

Simon Kimber is the author of Youn9y: The Autobiography of Alan Young, has been assistant editor of The FOX since 1992 and is an accredited Premier League photographer. Gary Silke founded The FOX in 1987 and has written a weekly Leicester Mercury column since 1991. Along with Derek Hammond – who took on the task of editing this book – he is co-author of Got, Not Got, runner-up in the BSBA Football Book of the Year 2012, and the following series of books.

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Can’t Buy That Feeling is available at ConkerEditions.co.uk, and via Amazon. It will be in the shops soon!

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England pick up the pieces

Ah, well. 

Give us a hand sorting out the edges. It’ll give us something to do on Saturday.

ENGLAND JIGSAW

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Hmm, never knew Geoff Hurst was the England coach. Didn’t recognise Steve Foster without his headband. And how come only Withe and Morley out of the excellent European Cup-winning Villa side made the England squad??

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More big questions, vintage kit, tech, games, stickers, schooldays nostalgia, progs and pogs and irresistible must-have shite from 1982 coming soon…

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What time’s the England match on tonight?

Hold on, let’s have a check in the Radio Times

This one’s well loved, good condition for age, and comes complete with Union Jack power which has rather gone missing since 94,493 fans – give or take – waved them at Wembley at the World Cup semi-final against Portugal back in 1966.

Another year when all the semi-finalists were from Europe…world cup radio timesEr, seven o’clock.

There’ll be tons more vintage must-have World Cup goodies in the Got, Not Got Football Gift Book – the bumper Autumn/Winter catalogue of cool stuff available for pre-order from Conker Editions in 2019.

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The greatest World Cup match that never was?

Check out the array of European talent on display here – a best-of compilation that arguably equals any individual match in the World Cup history of the era. But these stars, collectively totalling over 1,000 caps, came together for a match that’s now completely forgotten… There’s loads more curious, beautiful, big-match and downright hilarious football programmes in the Got, Not Got Football Gift Book, forthcoming in 2019.

This curio features refugees from the game-changing Hungarian side of the mid ’50s, including the great Ferenc Puskas. France’s Just Fontaine, the all-time record goalscorer in a single World Cup. The Barcelona legend Ladislav Kubala,  who not only played for his native Hungary but also Czechoslovakia and Spain. Spanish giant Francisco Gento. Germany’s 1966 sweeper Willi Schulz. Austrian star and influential coach Ernst Happel… And they’re up against a Who’s Who of British talent from various ’50s and ’60s finals, including Finney, Charles, Wright, Haynes, Blanchflower, Armfield and Cohen. The best British team of the era ever assembled..?

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What’s strange about the match is that it wasn’t played not in the ’50s or ’60s but in 1972, in front of a tiny crowd of just 5,000, at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge. With Brian Moore as live commentator!

Got anything weird or wonderful, worthy of inclusion in the programme section of the GNG Gift Book – the football fan’s catalogue of desires? Please do get in touch!

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