Alan Hubbard ©ITG

Safe as the Banks of England. That’s what they used to say about the nation’s greatest-ever goalkeeper.

The funeral of Gordon Banks will take place at Stoke Minster on March 4. The service for the England and Stoke City legend, who died last week aged 81, happens to be on the 47th anniversary of the club's League Cup win at Wembley - a triumph in which he was as proud to have played a major role as he did in England’ s one and  only World Cup final victory in 1966.

Footballing royalty is expected to descend on the Potteries for a final farewell to an England World Cup winner who was held in the very highest esteem, as a player and a man.

It will be reminiscent of the funeral of Sir Stanley Matthews, Banks's predecessor as Stoke City president, which was also held at Stoke Minster.

On that occasion back March 3 in 2000, tens of thousands of people lined a 12-mile route taken by the cortege, past the old Victoria Ground and the then-Britannia Stadium.

Tributes flooded in for Gordon Banks after it was announced last week he had died ©Getty Images
Tributes flooded in for Gordon Banks after it was announced last week he had died ©Getty Images

Note the "Sir" Stanley Matthews. Football is convinced a similar prefix should bave been affixed to the name of Gordon Banks, surely as equally deserving of taking the knee at the Palace as Sir Stan and the England manager Sir Alf Ramsey plus just two of the Class of ’66, the iconic Bobby Charlton and hat-trick legend Geoff Hurst,  awarded their K’s in 1994 and 1998 respectively.

Astonishingly, Banks  reportedly did not receive the top gong after paperwork was lost by Government officials.

Apparently he was was due to receive the honour but an administrative cock-up is said to have led to a delay that wasn't corrected in time before before his death.

There had been a nationwide petition, organised by some of his Stoke team-mates two years ago, for him to be accorded that knighthood. But the paperwork was said to have been mislaid by officers at the Government's Honours Committee.

Sometimes you wonder if the civil service is as hopelessly inept as the politicians now making such a Dogs’ Brexit of leaving the European Union.

Gordon Banks, in yellow shirt, was part of England's celebrated team that won the 1966 World Cup ©Getty Images
Gordon Banks, in yellow shirt, was part of England's celebrated team that won the 1966 World Cup ©Getty Images

Banks was an integral part of Alf Ramsey’s squad which secured England’s us World Cup final win over West Germany in 1966. The last line of a fabulous defence.

I am one of the last journos still standing (well, just about) to have covered 1966 and all that and reported on Banks many contributions to England’s glory days.

He is widely regarded as one of England’s greatest players of all time having racked up an impressive 73 caps after making his debut in 1963.

His goalkeeping dexterity saved England on numerous occasions but is best-remembered for the magical moment when his swallow-like swoop robbed the great Pelé of a certain goal in Guadalajara in 1970.

A the Estadio Jalisco Stadium he made one of the most iconic saves in football history as he denied Brazilian hero Pelé.

Much of the coverage after the death of Gordon Banks concentrated on his incredible save from Pelé at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico City - but he did not consider it the best of his career ©Daily Mirror
Much of the coverage after the death of Gordon Banks concentrated on his incredible save from Pelé at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico City - but he did not consider it the best of his career ©Daily Mirror

As Pelé recalled last week, "I hit that header exactly where I wanted it to go. And I was ready to celebrate. But this man Banks appeared in my sight, like a kind of blue phantom. He did something didn’t believe was possible. Even now, when I watch it, I can’t believe it."

Yet Banks did not even regard it as the greatest save of his career.

He claimed his greatest moment among hundreds of great saves was stopping a penalty in Stoke’s League Cup second leg semi-final with West Ham United. Ironically the penalty taker was Banks’s England team-mate Geofff Hurst. Banks got both hands to a thundering shot to push it over the bar.

Banks was a modest, unassuming bloke, who lost an eye in a crash and a kidney to cancer.

To be frank, I am not overly enthusiastic about Britain’s seriously flawed honours system which sees great achievers like Banks and Bobby Moore, the only Englishman to lift the World Cup, ignored for deserved knighthoods, while top gongs are awarded to crooks, spivs and charlatans from the worlds of poisonous politicians and and dodgy financiers.

Like Mooro, plain Mr Gordon Banks may never have been a knight but he certainly gave us many wonderful nights to remember.