Ards v Stoke City – 1969 & 1970
By Adrian Monaghan
Stoke City, a solid First Division side at the time, were guests of Ards Football Club for two
consecutive years in 1969 and 1970. Star attraction on both visits was legendary goalkeeper Gordon
Banks who sadly passed away in February 2019.
In his day, Banks was one, if not the best keepers in the world. His famous save against Pele at
Mexico ’70 is still revered as one of the finest ever. Pele was so confidant his powerful header was
in, he had already started to celebrate the goal before he saw Banks tip the ball over the crossbar -
"like a salmon leaping up a waterfall" as he later put it
A World Cup winner with England in 1966, Gordon Banks career started at Chesterfield before he
moved to Leicester in 1959. Banks was later sold to Stoke City where he helped the club win their
one and only major honour - the 1972 League Cup. George Eastham scored the winning goal against
Chelsea, more of him in a while.
Banks was involved in a car crash while driving home from Stoke's training ground in October 1972.
He was involved in a collision with an oncoming van and received over 300 stitches around his right eye. This horrific injury finished his top flight career, although he did play in America in the late 1970s.
His first appearance in Newtownards was on 29 July, 1969. Tony Waddington brought the
Staffordshire club to the province for a short tour (they defeated Glentoran the night before) and he sportingly allowed George Eastham to guest for his first club. Big mistake. Eastham had a fantastic game for the red-shirted hosts and scored both the goals in a memorable 2-1 win.
Thousands filed down the Portaferry Road that evening to see the great Gordon Banks in the
flesh, but went home singing the praises of their own adopted son – George Edward Eastham.
Ards – S.Kydd, D.Johnston, J.Burke, I.Andrews (Linfield), B.Stewart, B.Nixon, B.Humphries, D.Sands,
G.Eastham (Stoke City), B.McAvoy, R.Welsh. Subs – G.Crothers for Johnston & B.Brown for McAvoy.
Stoke City – G.Banks, E.Skeels, A.Elder, A.Bloor, D.Smith, W.Stevenson, D.Herd, P.Dobing, J.Ritchie,
T.Conroy, H.Burrows. Subs - M.Bernard, T.Allen, T.Lacey for Elder, Herd & Burrows.
Stoke and Banks was back the following summer, this time for his opposite numbers benefit match on 27 July, 1970. Ards keeper Sammy Kydd did well inviting the Stoke side to the town as the crowds flocked to the game in large numbers again.
This game took place a matter of weeks after the 1970 World Cup finals had concluded, the scene of the aforementioned ‘wonder save’. Once bitten, twice shy, Waddington decided not to loan out any payers for this one. His side won 1-0 with Mike Bernard getting the solitary goal. Bernard scored within a minute of replacing Stevenson in the second half.
At the end of the game Banks hurriedly made a bee-line for the pavilion to avoid the hundreds of
autograph hunters. The Newtownards folk weren’t going to be denied their memento though, and heading him off at the pass, they soon had him surrounded and unable to refuse.
Ards – S.Kydd, Bell (Crusaders), J.Patterson (Linfield), B.Humphries, D.McCoy, B.Nixon, McArdle,
G.McCaffrey (Glentoran), G.O’Halloran (Derry City), R.Welsh, R.Mowat (Distillery). Sub – J.Burke for
Stoke City – G. Banks, J.Marsh, M.Pejic, W.Stevenson, D.Smith, A.Bloor, T.Conroy, J.Mahoney,
J.Ritchie, P.Dobing, H.Burrows. Sub – M.Bernard for Stevenson.