It’s 50 years this week since Gordon Banks made that breathtaking, gravity-defying save to deny Pele. We don’t need a reminder of what a special keeper Gordon was but even so that save, in Guadalajara on June 7, 1970, still seems remarkable all these years on.
What made it great for me is not just the anticipation, ability and agility to pull it off, but also the context of the save.
It was on the biggest stage, a World Cup, it was to keep out Pele himself, part of a Brazil team who would go on to win the tournament and be celebrated as one of the finest teams in history.
So, not only was the save great, so was the occasion and the people involved – including Stoke City and England’s goalkeeper.
I am sure hours and hours of work on the training ground want into that split second of awe-inspiring brilliance.
When I think of the keepers I worked with as a manager, they were all workaholics.
They all tended to work that little bit harder than an outfield player, they would still be out there training maybe ten or fifteen minutes after everybody else had come in.
In fact, I used to have to send someone out to bring them in! I didn’t want them getting injured the day before a game.
You also have to be brave to play in that position, although keepers have a lot more protection nowadays.
Go back in time a few decades and you’ll see plenty of pictures of centre forwards going in with their feet up with a keeper’s head near their boots. They had absolutely no protection. If a keeper was bumped into by a centre forward, very few referees would blow for a foul.
The game has changed in that respect and also keepers have got bigger. Of the keepers I had at Stoke City, none of them relied on their height – Ronnie Sinclair, Peter Fox, Mark Prudhoe, and then Carl Muggleton was probably the biggest.
You didn’t have to be a giant to be a goalkeeper, if your attitude was right and you had the ability then height wasn’t a priority.
Oh, and talking of hard workers, Ronnie Sinclair certainly falls into that category. He’s a coach now and I am sure he will have carried that ethos into his coaching at Aston Villa and now at Port Vale.