Northern Ireland’s legendary goalkeeper Pat Jennings hailed Gordon Banks as the best ever.

The World Cup winning stopper passed away peacefully, his family announced on Tuesday morning (February 12).

Tributes poured in from across the footballing world, perhaps most strongly by his fellow members of the goalkeeping fraternity.

The theme was of admiration – one followed by Northern Irishman Jennings, who played against Banks at international level and revealed it was by watching his opposite number that he honed his own skills.

“All the keepers who played in his era tried to emulate him,” he told the Irish FA. “He set the standard. He was just so steady week in, week out. He was the greatest.

“Look at the pitches he played on. They were bumpy and muddy, and he coped with that, dealt with that problem. And remember that he also just wore cotton gloves, or no gloves at all.

“In those days there was no such thing as goalkeeping coaches. You learned by watching other keepers. Bill Nicholson (former Spurs manager) got me tickets to all of England’s games in the 1966 World Cup Finals, including the final, so I could watch Gordon in action. Bill said it was part of the learning process.”

Jennings made his name at Tottenham and Arsenal, with whom he faced Leicester and Stoke’s Banks on several occasions.

Like everybody else, one save outshines the rest when Jennings looks back at Banks’ career.

“My favourite save by Gordon was the one he made from (Brazil superstar) Pele’s header during the 1970 World Cup Finals. The degree of difficulty involved, and the flight of the ball, meant it was just incredible,” he said.

“Gordon was an absolute gentleman and always had time for a chat. He was so down to earth and was just a lovely bloke. He will be sorely missed.”

Banks’ successor as England’s number one Peter Shilton joined the praise by hailing his rival and friend.

“Gordon was my hero when I was a youngster watching Leicester City on the terrace,” he told Sky Sports. “I eventually joined the club and quickly became his understudy at 16.

“I trained with him for about a year once a week and he was always helpful, he was always a gentlemen. We had a friendship – we were rivals as well, but we had a friendship – and it’s just so tragic news that he’s finally gone.

“I know he hadn’t been very well, but it’s hit me quite hard that he’s actually passed away.”

Manchester United favourite Peter Schmeichel added to those sentiments, tweeting: “So sad to hear that Gordon Banks one of my heroes and a true legend in life and football, has passed away. An inspiration, a winner and a true gentleman.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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