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Six degrees of separation: From Foster to Osborne

15 December 2015

Goalkeeping it real

You’re all aware of the game I’m sure, the idea that by six simple steps, everyone on earth can be connected to everyone else – if you don’t believe us, wait until Christmas and all those irritating relatives suddenly turn up to drink your whisky. Today, we will be tracing the lineage that goes from England’s number one, Ben Foster, back to 1968 FA Cup winner the late, great John Osborne…


BEN FOSTER, blessed with hands like buckets and reflexes so sharp that you could slice concrete with them. But to add to these talents, we can also deduce that the man is an alchemist, a miracle worker, capable of achieving things that, to the untutored eye, seem all but impossible. How else are we to account for one of the medals that he has collected in his career?


For in his spell at BIRMINGHAM CITY, he transgressed one of the great universal laws which says that if the Blues were to actually win anything, the very fabric of time and space would collapse in on itself and, frankly, we’d all be pushing up the daisies. Somehow, that did not come to pass after Foster had kept Arsenal at bay in the League Cup final of 2011, picking up the man of the match award for his troubles, the galactic balance only being restored when Blues took the drop at season’s end.   


In fact, Birmingham had previously won the League Cup, beating the Villa, hilariously enough, in the two legged final of 1963, though there were so few teams bothering to enter the competition at that stage – we didn’t turn up until 1965/66 - that it doesn’t really count. The nation paid next to no notice of the May ’63 final even at the time because it was  occupied in tracking the phenomenon know as Beatlemania which raged around JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE and RINGO.


The Beatles became a national obsession with their incredible songwriting, their funny haircuts and their funnier press conferences, all of which was rushed to the cinema in an effort to cash in on what was expected to be short lived popularity. Fifty years and counting… Beatlemania was captured on celluloid in “A Hard Day’s Night”, a magnificent movie directed by DICK LESTER, an American who had previously worked with Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers and so was on the same wavelength as the Fabs.


Such was his success that Dick Lester went on to give his name to LEICESTER CITY, merely changing the spelling so as to avoid publicity. That’s a lie of course, but you try making this thing to work. Like The Beatles, Leicester also had a good year in 1963, going all the way to the FA Cup final where they had the misfortune to come up against Manchester United in full flow, losing 3-1. Six years later, they lost another final to the blue half of Manchester.


By then, Peter Shilton was in goal for the Foxes but in that ’63 final, it was the legendary GORDON BANKS that was between the posts, well on his way to establishing himself as the best goalkeeper in the world. Banks had a remarkable career, taking in the 1966 World Cup win and Stoke City’s only ever trophy when they won the League Cup in 1972, all of it ended by a terrible car crash which cost him the sight in one eye later that year.


Banks’ career began at Chesterfield, making his debut for the Spireites in November 1958, but such was his brilliance, within a year he was off to Leicester in the top flight, leaving a vacancy in the Chesterfield first team. It took them a little while to plug that particular gap, but by 1960, they had finally found themselves a long term replacement. His name was JOHN OSBORNE who, seven years later, would make his own move to the top flight, to the Albion.


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