The Paul Stewart column: Knighthoods overdue for our World Cup heroes of 1966

As arguably the greatest goalkeeper who ever lived was laid to rest this week, I and many others have been left wondering why Gordon Banks and most fellow members of the 1966 World Cup-winning squad have not received knighthoods.

Friday, 8th March 2019, 8:24 am
Updated Friday, 8th March 2019, 9:28 am
Paul Stewart reflects on the death of arguably England's greatest goalkeeper

Banks made one of the greatest saves I’ve ever seen when he dived low to the right-hand corner to tip over a header from Pele in the 1970 World Cup.

He should have been knighted for this goalkeeping feat alone. It is probably one of the most iconic clips repeated on TV for supporters young and old to marvel at.

I’m not particularly criticising others who have been knighted for their contributions to their particular sports, such as Andy Murray or Alastair Cook, but surely winning the World Cup rivals winning Wimbledon and the Ashes?

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The fact we have only ever reached the semi-finals since we won the Jules Rimet Trophy back in 1966 surely ratifies this.

Therefore all the squad should be made knights of the realm, be it posthumous or not.

I was fortunate enough to meet Gordon Banks on a number of occasions and lucky enough to play a round of golf with the goalkeeping legend.

I found him the most humbling of characters ,who was totally unaware of his legendary status.

He was mild-mannered, with time for anyone and everyone.

I think that is testimony to the players of his era – not superstars but ordinary guys who were thankful that football gave them a platform to become sporting icons.

When you look at today’s top footballers, the riches bestowed upon them and the adulation you would associate with film stars, one wonders what players like Gordon Banks think of the game as it is now.

I’m sure he wouldn’t swap a thing, gracing the football pitch with players like Bobby Moore, Pele, Puskas – the list is endless – and lifting the World Cup, a trophy which will never return to British shores, it seems – not in my lifetime anyway, if ever.

I have often spoken to Tony Green, the Blackpool and Newcastle legend, about ‘Banksy’ as he fondly calls him.

They both sat on the pools panel and Tony would smile and recall with great fondness the antics they got up to, the banter they shared and the end-of-season golf trips the four panel members went on.

I know for sure that Greeny feels a great loss at his pal’s passing.

Somehow I’m not sure it will be the same on Saturdays when they have to predict results due to weather disruptions.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall as they predicted results of games, even when they couldn’t name any of the players involved!

So, for what it’s worth, I ask whoever decides on the recipients of honours to consider please our World Cup-winning squad of 1966.

These players have surely crossed the threshold, whatever that is, to be awarded knighthoods.

I know I’m not the only one who thinks this. I know the general public feel strongly about it too and would welcome these heroes being honoured.

RIP Sir Gordon Banks