Memories from my recliner chair.
Memories from my recliner chair. These can be of anything really and can be happy exciting or even sad.
On this occasion, they were both sad and a little happy, if that doesn’t sound too silly! I was reading the news about Gordon Banks passing away, which obviously made me feel sad. Then though I remembered how we met and that made me really happy and allowed me to smile to myself.
I was about to open my first business of my own. The local newspaper had promised me some coverage of the opening in return for an advert. They suggested it could be even better if we got a celebrity to perform the opening ceremony for us.
There was no one I could think of that might be able to help. Then for no real reason, that I can remember I thought of Gordon Banks. At that time he was a coach at Port Vale, having retired from playing. This was after the loss of an eye in a car crash.
Anyway, I phoned Port Vale and asked if I could speak to Mr Banks. I was told he was taking a training session. The lady I was speaking to took my number and said she would get him to call me back.
As you can imagine, I thought that no more would come of it. However about an hour later the phone rang. When I answered he said this is Gordon Banks can I speak to Robert, please.
I told him it was me and explained that I would like him to open my new shop. This was in Stafford and he lived not far away, I explained it would be from 5 pm for about an hour and a half. Him to say the shop is now open and sign a few autographs. He hesitated slightly and I worried and then said to him I will, of course, pay you for your time. Gordon replied that it wasn’t that he was just wondering which was the best way to get to the shop.
Anyway, we agreed on the day the time and that I would pay him £100, he wouldn’t take any more! That was all the contact we had and you can imagine I was worried. Having advertised that he would open the shop, would he actually arrive.
There was no reason to worry Gordon Banks turned up half an hour early. He introduced himself and wandered the shop to see what I was selling. Even then there was an odd recliner chair, which he tried!
By 5 pm the agreed opening time we had a very large queue and Gordon duly cut the ribbon. He said to the waiting crowd the shop is open come on in!
I had asked him to be there from 5 pm until about 6-30 pm depending on how many people came. This man was fantastic we had to close the doors at 9-30 and he was still signing autographs.
We closed the doors to the public and said thank you to Gordon Banks for staying so long. I offered him some extra money for staying on so long but he would not hear of it. In fact, he said how much he had enjoyed it We had a couple of drinks and he went home. Not before though he had stood and chatted to a lot of people waiting outside. He must have signed autographs for another 20 minutes.
The local papers ran stories about the even and said what a success it had been. It certainly got the business off to a great start, you could say Gordon Banks saved the day!
Now, this was way back in 1978 well before the internet and instant picture posting. About two weeks after the newspaper supplied me pictures of the evening. Those that Gordon appeared in I asked for extra copies of. One afternoon I went out to his home to take copies for him. I just knocked on the door, his wife answered and just invited me in. I explained who I was and she told me that Gordon and been excited at the event. We went into the lounge ad he was delighted to see me and loved the pictures. We chatted for a while and I then went back to work.
After that Gordon started doing after dinner talks with himself, Geoff Hurst and George Cohen. I went to one of his early events which was held at the Top of the World ballroom in Stafford. It was a so-called ‘gentleman’s evening’ (not sure how I got in!). Everyone in their finest dinner jackets and bow ties. I had told the guys I was with that I knew Gordon Banks but they didn’t believe me! I did not for one minute think he would remember me. But as I walked passed the bar his hand came out and grabbed my arm. He shook my hand and then introduced me to Geoff Hurst and George Cohen. They said he had been going onto them about the night he opened my shop! He was as charming that night as ever.
I am certain there are hundreds of thousands of stories being told about Gordon Banks now. Mine isn’t that special really but I will sit in my recliner chair with that and many other memories for years to come!
Oh and of course I watched him and those guys win the world cup back in 1966. Even better than that I was at Wembley when Stoke won the league cup back in 1972.
Great memories of a great goalkeeper and a truly nice gentleman! Why oh why did he never get the knighthood he deserved. He will though to me, always be Sir Gordon Banks.