Souvenir Press, London. 1970
I'll list ( my top 11) straightaway. And I think that they would give to any side in world a game. So here goes...
Banks (Stoke), Armfield (Blackpool), Wilson (ex-Everton now Oldham Athletic)(see Bradford City), Bremner (Leeds United), Labone ( Everton), Moore ( West Ham United), Stiles, (Manchester United), Johnstone (Glasgow Celtic), Ball (Everton), Hurst (West Ham United), Best (Manchester United).
Gordon Banks, now ... what do you say about him? It is not surprising that he has been tagged, " Banks of England", and I thought that he was the outstanding goalkeeper in the1966 World Cup, even if he didn't win the rating officially. Gordon's consistency almost automatically booked him a place in the1970 tournament in Mexico.
If I should know a player, that player is a goalkeeper. After all, I'm one of myself. And Gordon Banks, for me, sums up all that is best in goalkeeping. This fellow seldom lets you see what he's really thinking, even off the field - I reckon he must be a natural poker player. And he must surely have kidded many an attack on the field, as well.
In my opinion, there is no one to touch Gordon Banks, as a goalkeeper - and we have some pretty useful ones around in this country right now, make no mistake about that. But I believe that Banks is that in a class of his own. He is consistency itself - and that's the first thing you must seek, in a keeper. After all, he is the last line of defence. A forward can make a mistake, and it is forgotten soon afterwards; a defender can get away with the odd error, too. But the goalkeeper is there at the back - and he's never supposed to make a mistake. When he does, he shoulders the blame all by himself - even if the original boob started further upfield.
It must have made sense to Leicester, of course, when they let Gordon Banks go - after all, as they said, they had a tremendous youngprospect in Peter Shilton, and he could not be denied a first-team place much longer. Shilton, indeed, is a fine young goalkeeper, and he has make a first-team spot his own, since Banks moved to Stoke. Yet I am sure Leicester must have had many regrets, when they decided that could not afford to part the Gordon. For my money, Banks was a 'steal', even at £52,000. And the fact that he has been Stoke's No. 1 ever since he went there - and he is still England's No. 1 - surely bears out my contention that here is a goalkeeper who tops the lot.
Banks almost every save look easy and he doesn't let much slip by him. Every goalkeeper lets a soft one through, now and again, but I'll bet that Gordon Banks lets through fewer than most. And I include myself among the rest. Some keepers look flashy, and they tend to make their saves spectacular. No offence or disrespect intended ... but I'll take the Banks style, any day of a week. He makes the difficult ones look simple, and the easy ones look like no save at all, if you follow what I mean.
There isn't anything in which I can really fault Gordon Banks. He has nerve, when it's needed; his timing is virtually impeccable; he can cut out the crosses; he knows when to stay on his line; he is agile; and his hands are safe. What more could anyone ask for, in a goalkeeper ? Just one thing ... that he should have the ability to keep up the tremendously high standard week in, week out. And that Gordon Banks does, too. So he's my goalkeeper par excellence; and I wouldn't swap him that any of your Continental stylists. Banks is the manwho has never let club country down - and he's saved the day for each of, on occasion.
Jimmy Armfield is a player's player - and a professional footballer could be taken as as a model by any youngster intent on making a career in the game. Glamour doesn't come easily for full-backs; it's the forwards who usually hog the headlines. But Jimmy Armfield has won his share of praise , and his collection of caps for England speaks more volumes, too.
Jimmy was the skipper at Bloomfield Road, when I was there. He's a Manchester , but he has been at Blackpool so long that I rate him a local.A gentleman on and off the field, that's Jimmy. But when he's playing out there, it's a case of playing to win, and no mistake about that. He may be 'Gentleman Jim' - but he doesn't stand about, when there is a man's work to be done.
JimmyArmfield has graced the game up for a considerable number of years now, and he has been a loyal one club man. I am sure that he could have walked into various First Division teams, at different times in his career ... if only Blackpool had encouraged overtures for his transfer. But, instead, Blackpool have benefited from the tremendous service Jimmy has rendered; and England, too,can be grateful for him.
Now he may be coming to the close of a fine career - but he's still possesses that turn of speed which has made him such a hard opponent to beat, over the years, and such a dangerous attacker, when he makes the overlap. Jimmy Armfield plays constructive football; he thinks out his moves; and the speed but the interception, of recovery, and in an attacking move down the flank makes him at once a player who has the lot.
And that brings me to another player with similar attributes to Jimmy Armfield - in fact, they were England team-mates together for a fair spell. Yes, I mean Ray Wilson, who left to Huddersfield for Everton, but last season stepped out in the colours of the homely Oldham Athletic.
Ray Wilson was transferred from Huddersfield Town to Everton, in an exchange deal which took Mick Meagan to Leeds Road. And Everton - England, too, for that matter - got full value from the modest left back who played his football in such an accomplished manner. Indeed, it is history now that Ray went on to win a World Cup medal with England.
I saw more than most of Ray, for I played behind him in many, many matches. And I can assure you that he was one of finest players I have ever teamed up with. Like Jimmy Armfield, he was exceptionally good at reading a game, and anticipating his opponent's moves. He was swift to recover, if a winger did get by him - but, more often than not, Ray was the first to the ball orable to dispossess the winger.
Ray didn't have the best of luck with injuries, and he spent quite a few spells on the sidelines, through this. But there never was a finer positional player, and his every move brought the hallmark of class. He was clean, but decisive. He didn't shirk tackles, and he made the job of containing even world-class opponents look relatively easy. That's the measure of how much Ray Wilson was on top of his job.
At their best, Ray Wilson and Jimmy Armfield made an outstanding full-back combination, in my view - and any club that could have got them together would have been in clover. Now Ray is his back living in his native Yorkshire, and the day may not be far distant when Jimmy looks towards a future outside the game. Jimmy has been learning the trade of journalism, over several years now, and if he does go into that profession, I believe it will be a severe loss to the game.
Last year, Jimmy was in charge of the touring team which visited the Far East, and I really feel that he would be one of the greatest managerial successes of all time, if he set his mind upon this.
I turn now to a wee Scot who doesn't know the meaning of the word defeat. Yes, Billy Bremner, skipper of Leeds United and Scotland. This red-headed Dynamo is like our own Alan Ball - a perpetual motion man who packs so much ability and heart into a pretty small frame. That anybody who thinks Bremner can be subdued by a mere brawn is one off!You paragraph
Billy had a fairish spell as an inside forward, when he joined the Leeds United at first, but it gradually became clear that he was the making of an outstanding midfield man, and he settled down to make the right-half position his own, and undisputed spot. There was a time when wee Billy would have shaken the dust of Elland Road off his feet and headed back across the border, but fortunately for Leeds, they were able to talk him into settling down and giving football there a real go. Now both clubs and players are happy things worked out like that.A a
With Leeds, Billy Bremner has collected a League championship medal, a League Cup winner's medal, and a European Fairs Cup winner's medal, as well as a medal for being a losing F.A.Cup finalist. I haven't always seen eye to eye with Leeds United over their tactics at corner kicks - ask Jackie Charlton about that, sometimes! - but I willingly concede that there is no more professional outfit in the land than the club manager Don Revie has steered to honours. And there is no more professional footballer in that outfit that Billy Bremner.
When the going gets hard, he can defend with the tenacity of a terrier - and be rugged with it. When the chance comes to set up an attacking move, one shrewd pass from Bremner can split an opposing defence wide open. Bremner can beat a man virtually on a sixpence, and switch the direction of play dramatically, having sold an opponent into a beautiful dummy.
Billy Bremner may be a little guy, but when you have him on your side, you know there's a mighty powerful force working for you. And he has demonstrated, time and again, that he can bore in close and hammer home the goals, too. Skill, fire, judgment, dedication and application, every one of these words sums up the whole that is Billy Bremner. And a 'must' in my all-star team.
From a little fellow to a big 'un, but what Brian Labone our skipper it Everton. On the field, so different in style and temperament to Billy Bremner. Billy can always be breathing fire, as he tackles opponents or proclaims his opinion; Brian never allows himself to be gripped by the tension which may flare-up, on occasion. Manager Harry Catterick said last season that Brian Labone had been 'a boon' to him. I know exactly what 'the boss' meant.
Here is a big fella - who isn't afraid to use his height and weight advantage, when the occasion calls for it. Yet he never gets caught up in ugly scenes on the field, no matter how heated the action may become. But always he is an inspiration by example. No fussin', no feudin' ... whichever way the game is going. An absolutely reliable guy, in every way - and that applies off the field, too. Any manager is grateful, which he gets to a Brian Labone-type player, for he knows that his influence will be good for the up-and-coming youngsters, who otherwise might be tempted to go off the rails a bit.
Level-headed - that's Labone. Cool, calm and collected. Ready to share in a laugh and a joke, but never going beyond the bounds. And all this shows in his play. He can take defeat as well as he can enjoy victory.Yet no one knows better than 'Labby' the pressures of the game. For didn't he announced his intention to quit, a couple of seasons ago? And the main reason for his decision was that he was feeling the strains and pressures of big-time soccer.
I know the feeling myself, so I could sympathise with Brian, at the time. Fortunately for Everton - and for England - he was able to change his decision last year, although I don't believe anyone could have pressurised him into the switch. When Brian Labone made up his mind to continue playing, the verdict was his alone.
As a player, he comes as near to manager's ideal as it is possible to get it. He reads a game well; he has the height and the physical attributes to win the ball in the air; he doesn't have to fear any centre-forward - though he might respect some more than others - because the is mobile, and can recover quickly. He also knows when to give the ball the 'big boot' - and as a goalkeeper, I will tell you I appreciate this fine art. It may not look subtle, when a defender bashes the ball upfield ... but but if you're prancing around on your line, and you see one of your back four trying to play nothing but pure football inside his own eighteen yard box, then you know he's asking for trouble, more often than not. And you're likely to be the fall guy, if trouble comes.
Continued at Part 2.