Tommy Banks, rugged full-back who became England’s oldest surviving international footballer – obituary (2024)

Tommy Banks, who has died aged 94, was a footballer who won the FA Cup with Bolton Wanderers in 1958 and played six times for England, including all four of their games at that summer’s World Cup; a fearsomely tough left-back, he became the oldest surviving former England international following the death of the Luton Town goalkeeper Ron Baynham in March this year.

“He had a lot to say on and off the field but knew football and was a master of his craft,” his England teammate Bobby Charlton recalled. “Fast over the ground and hard as nails – wingers didn’t like playing against him. If you had any weak spot in your make-up he’d exploit it.”

Though he was never once booked, the story is still told in Bolton of how Banks would shout over to Roy Hartle at right-back, “Roy, when you’ve done with your man, chip him over here and I’ll see if he likes gravel rash” – and wingers were supposedly wont to develop “injuries” rather than travel to Burnden Park and become acquainted with the pitchside track.

Tommy Banks, rugged full-back who became England’s oldest surviving international footballer – obituary (1)

Thomas Banks was born on November 10 1929 in Farnworth, in Bolton, the youngest of seven children of John Banks and Catherine, née Mannion. He attended Harper Green Secondary School in the town then went down the pit at Mosley Common colliery, while playing for a local side, Partridges FC.

Word of his defensive talents spread beyond Bolton, and Arsenal, Leeds, Wolves, Portsmouth and Burnley all made enquiries, while Matt Busby, who was in the process of creating his first great Manchester United side, turned up at his house with an invitation to watch the first team train. But young Tommy was a committed Wanderers fan – his older brother Ralph, had joined in 1940 – and stood firm, signing, initially as an amateur, in 1945.

He made his first-team debut in May 1948, going on to play 233 league games for Bolton. While his brother Ralph was at left-back against Blackpool in the famous “Matthews final” of 1953, the highpoint of Tommy’s club career came five years later when they beat Manchester United – recently shorn of eight Busby Babes in the Munich disaster – 2-0 in the final, with a brace of goals from Nat Lofthouse.

Tommy Banks, rugged full-back who became England’s oldest surviving international footballer – obituary (2)

It was the death of one of the Babes, Roger Byrne, that gave Tommy his England chance. Millions of words have been written, many dreams dreamed, about how England might have fared at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden with Byrne, Tommy Taylor and the mighty Duncan Edwards in their ranks, but Banks acquitted himself well at left-back, and Walter Winterbottom’s side could count themselves as unlucky not to reach the knock-out rounds.

It became an uphill struggle after Tom Finney was kicked out of the tournament by the Soviet Union in the opening game, a 2-2 draw, and England drew their next two group games – including a valiant goalless draw against the eventual winners Brazil – before losing to the Soviets in a play-off.

Banks was brought rapidly back to earth when he arrived back in Bolton, resplendent in his England blazer and flannels. A local woman stopped him, saying: “Hello Tommy, you look very smart. Have you been to Blackpool for your holidays?”

By 1961 Banks – thought to be the first British sportsman to appear in a TV advert, for Gillette razors – was in the autumn of his career. Needing a new challenge, he sought a move to Oldham Athletic. But under the old “retain-and-transfer” system he was at the mercy of his club, who refused to let him go for less than £10,000.

Tommy Banks, rugged full-back who became England’s oldest surviving international footballer – obituary (3)

George Eastham had already gone on strike to try to secure a move from Newcastle United, and their struggles would eventually end up with victory in court and a fairer system for players.

But that was several years down the road, and Banks, who had also been a prominent supporter of the campaign to end the maximum wage, was forced to play out his career in non-league football with Altrincham and Bangor City, retiring in 1965. He stayed in his home town, running a newsagent’s for a while and working in the building industry. In 2012 a biography of Banks appeared, Ah’m Telling Thee by Ian Seddon – another former Bolton player – while pupils at his old school, Harper Green, staged a musical based on his life.

Tommy Banks married, in 1952, Margaret Charles; they had two sons. She died in 1977, and in 1981 he married Marguerite Morris, known as Rita.

His international teammate, the goalkeeper Colin McDonald, who played behind him in Sweden in 1958, takes over the mantle of England’s oldest surviving international footballer.

Tommy Banks, born November 10 1929, died June 13 2024

Tommy Banks, rugged full-back who became England’s oldest surviving international footballer – obituary (2024)

FAQs

Tommy Banks, rugged full-back who became England’s oldest surviving international footballer – obituary? ›

Tommy Banks, who has died aged 94, was a footballer who won the FA Cup with Bolton Wanderers

Bolton Wanderers
Bolton Wanderers F.C. is an English football club. It is based 15 miles north of Manchester. The club plays in the English football league 1, the third tier league in England. Their home is the University of Bolton Stadium. It holds around 28,723 people.
https://simple.wikipedia.org › wiki › Bolton_Wanderers_F.C.
in 1958 and played six times for England, including all four of their games at that summer's World Cup; a fearsomely tough left-back, he became the oldest surviving former England international following the death of the Luton ...

Is Tommy Banks still alive? ›

We are saddened to hear that Tommy Banks has passed away aged 94. Tommy won six international caps and represented the #ThreeLions at the 1958 @FIFAWorldCup. Bolton said in a statement on the club's website: “The thoughts and condolences of everyone at Bolton Wanderers are with Tommy's family and friends.

Who was the oldest player to play in English football? ›

On 15 May 1957, Matthews became the oldest player ever to represent England, when at 42 years and 104 days old he turned out for the victory over the Danes in Copenhagen.

How many stars does Tommy Banks have? ›

Tommy holds two Michelin stars, one each for his two restaurants The Black Swan at Oldstead and Roots in York, as well as a Michelin green star for efforts with sustainable gastronomy.

Who is the oldest person on Earth? ›

Maria Branyas Morera - Born in March 1907 (The Oldest Person in the World) After Lucile Randon passed away on the 17th of January 2023 and as of September 2023, Maria Branyas Morera is the oldest person in the world as officially recognised by Guinness World Records.

Who is the oldest football player to retire? ›

Blanda retired from pro football in August 1976 as the sport's oldest player at the age of 48, a mark that still stands. One of only three players to play in four different decades (the other two being John Carney and Jeff Feagles), he holds the record for most extra points made (943) and attempted (959).

Who is the oldest football player right now? ›

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — For years, Tom Brady was the oldest active NFL player until his retirement in 2022. So, who's the oldest active NFL player now that Brady is out of the league? At age 41, Seattle Seahawk Jason Peters holds the title, according to Sports Illustrated.

Who is the oldest player to ever play football? ›

Japanese striker Kazuyoshi Miura, who is widely recognised as world football's oldest active professional, has returned to Japan to join fourth-tier side Atletico Suzuka Club on loan.

How old was Michael Owen when he first played for England? ›

Owen made his debut for England aged 18 in 1997 and his goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup in France was voted one of the greatest ever England goals. He went on to score a total of 40 goals in 89 international appearances, including a memorable hat-trick against Germany in 2001.

Who is the youngest player to play for the England football team? ›

Theo Walcott

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