With tournament season inevitably bringing memories of Nobby's dance and countless video replays of Geoff Hurst's shot, this week heralds a new series of reports entitled Post-66, an in-depth look at the boys behind England's greatest footballing moment.
We begin with the supreme custodian, Gordon Banks, rightly hailed as one of the best goalkeepers ever. Banks certainly didn't benefit from a gentle introduction to the game; even when lining up for Chesterfield in the FA Youth Cup final he found himself against several of Manchester United's Busby Babes in 1956! Unsurprisingly, he finished up on the losing team.
Transferred to first division Leicester in 1959, he then played in the FA Cup final against 23 years of age against another footballing giant, Tottenham Hotspur. Banks again finished on the losing side as Spurs registered a 2-0 win and a League and Cup Double. It was to be a largely familiar story throughout his career.
1963 saw Banks come within a whisker of playing in a Double-winning side himself, as only a disastrous run of form in the closing five matches saw Leicester throw away first position in the league. Shortly afterwards, Banks put in a nightmare display in the Cup Final, as Leicester went down 3-1 to Manchester United. His only domestic cup win came in 1964, when Leicester collected the League Cup with a win over his future club Stoke.
Ironic indeed, then, that the man who lost practically every cup final in which he played, ended up on the winning side in the most important final of all: the 1966 World Cup Final at Wembley. Banks put in an assured display in just his third year as England goalkeeper, and was unlucky not to reach Wolfgang Weber's shot in the 93rd minute which took the tie to extra-time. Had he got an inch closer, Hurst's disputed goal, Hurst's hat-trick and Wolstenholme's legendary commentary piece would never have happened!
Although a World Cup winner, banks found himself transfer-listed after Leicester wanted to build for the future with a brash Peter Shilton. Shortly after the Germany match, he transferred to Stoke where he comfortably held the No.1 spot for six years (taking a short break in the middle to play in America). Here, he would win the League Cup in 1972.
Two years earlier, of course, he would post his finest achievement of all, leaping full-stretch to tip a Pele header over the crossbar from ground-level, in what has rightly been described as "the greatest save of all time!" This save had doubtless been replayed more times than any other.
Who knows how far England would have gone in 1970 had Banks not come down with food poisoning before the infamous tie with West Germany, in which understudy Peter Bonetti was nervously found wanting? And who knows how long his first division career would have lasted had he not lost control of his car on that fateful afternoon in October 1972? The accident left him without the use of an eye, rendering him a liability as a goalkeeper. Incredibly, though, he played 39 games for Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the US at the age of 40, even keeping some clean sheets!
Banks ultimately moved into coaching at Port Vale and management at non-league Telford, taking away nothing but bitter experiences from the two clubs. After being sacked from the latter after defeat in a cup-tie, despite league form not being a problem, Banks realized that chairmen were too illogical for his liking, and vowed never to enter the dugout again. He never did.