Gordon Banks

City's World Cup Stars

Six Foxes have played in World Cup tournaments while plying their trade at Leicester City.

Over the years, nearly 120 Foxes have represented their countries at full international level.

Club Historian John Hutchinson recalls six players, including World Cup winner Gordon Banks, who played in the final stages of World Cup tournaments whilst they were on Leicester City's books.

1958 - Willie Cunningham, Northern Ireland

Host nation: Sweden

Cunningham played nearly 150 games for Leicester City between 1954 and 1960.

He won 23 caps for Northern Ireland while at Filbert Street.

He was an ever-present in the Northern Ireland side which competed in the World Cup Finals in Sweden in 1958.

This tournament will be remembered for Brazil winning their first World Cup and for the tournament debut of their 17 year-old star, Pelé.

Cunningham's Irish teammates included such illustrious players as Harry Gregg, Danny Blanchflower, Peter McParland, Jimmy McIlroy and Derek Dougan.

A play-off victory over Czechoslovakia secured Northern Ireland's place in the quarter-finals where they came up against France who were inspired by the great centre-forward Just Fontaine.

His two goals in the match contributed to a 4-0 defeat for the Irish.

His 13 goals in the tournament as a whole is a record which still stands.

After he left Filbert Street in 1959, Cunningham was a Scottish Cup winner with Dunfermline in 1961.

He later became Dunfermline's manager, selling Jackie Sinclair to Leicester City where he formed a great partnership with Cunningham's erstwhile Northern Ireland teammate Derek Dougan.

1966 - Gordon Banks, England

Host nation: England

Gordon Banks, who arrived at Filbert Street from Chesterfield in 1959, won his first England cap in April 1963 in a match against Scotland at a time when Leicester City were just about to go to the top of the old First Division.

An FA Cup finalist for Leicester City in 1961 and 1963, a League Cup winner in 1964 and a League Cup finalist in 1965, he was capped 37 times whilst at Filbert Street.

Banks was England's undisputed first choice goalkeeper for the 1966 World Cup Finals.

He kept clean sheets in the three group matches against Uruguay, Mexico and France and in the stormy and controversial quarter-final against Argentina in the game when their captain Antonio Rattin refused to leave the field after he had been dismissed in the 35th minute.

In the semi-final against Portugal, Banks conceded a late penalty scored by Eusebio (the tournament's top scorer with nine goals) after Bobby Charlton had given England a 2-0 lead.

He then achieved lasting fame by being in the victorious England team that defeated a Beckenbauer-inspired West Germany in the final at Wembley.

Banks left Leicester City nine months later, his place at Filbert Street being taken by another future England legend, Peter Shilton.

He famously featured in the 1970 World Cup Finals when his save against Pele achieved world-wide acclaim before he succumbed to food poisoning, missing the quarter-final defeat against West Germany.

1982 and 1986 - John O'Neill, Northern Ireland

Host nations: Spain (1982) and Mexico (1986)

Central defender John O'Neill played nearly 350 games for Leicester City between 1979 and 1987, many as captain.

During that time he also won 39 caps for Northern Ireland.

He is the only player who, whilst still on Leicester City's books, played in the final stages of the World Cup in successive tournaments.

In 1982, he was in Billy Bingham's Northern Ireland squad, captained by Martin O'Neill, which competed in the World Cup Finals in Spain.

The Irish topped their group in the first round, following a famous victory over hosts Spain, but they were eliminated in the second round.

Although he was a substitute in four of Northern Ireland's five games, John's only action on the pitch was a four minute spell at the end of Northern Ireland's final game, a 4-1 defeat by France at Atletico Madrid's Vincente Calderon Stadium.

O'Neill fared better in the 1986 finals in Mexico.

He played every minute of Northern Ireland's three games.

These were all in Guadalajara, where their opening 1-1 draw against Algeria, followed by defeats against Spain and Brazil, resulted in Northern Ireland's elimination at the group stage.

1998 - Kasey Keller, USA

Host nation: France

In August 1996, Leicester City manager Martin O'Neill paid Millwall a fee of £900,000 for the United States international goalkeeper Kasey Keller.

He played 99 Premier League games for the Foxes over the next three seasons, was a League Cup winner and played in the UEFA Cup.

In 1998, he was selected for the USA World Cup squad for the finals in France.

He played in the first two group matches, a 2-0 by Germany in Paris and a 2-1 defeat by Iran in Lyon.

In the third game, a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Yugoslavia in Nantes, Brad Friedel kept goal, with Keller on the bench.

The USA returned home pointless.

After one more season at Filbert Street, Kasey moved to Real Vallecano.

At Filbert Street he added another 21 USA caps to his final total of 102 caps.

After leaving Leicester City, Keller signed for Tottenham Hotspur, Borussia Monchengladbach and Fulham before returning to the USA to play for Seattle Sounders.

He also featured in the USA Squads for the 2002 World Cup Finals in Japan and South Korea and for the 2006 finals in Germany.

2002 - Muzzy Izzet, Turkey

Host nations: South Korea and Japan

In March 1996, Muzzy Izzet, an unknown Chelsea reserve, made his Leicester City debut in Martin O'Neill's struggling side in the infamous home defeat against Sheffield United.

He then played a crucial part in the run which ended in the Play-Off Final victory over Crystal Palace, and in the subsequent successful years in the Premier League which included four top-half finishes, three League Cup Finals, two League Cup wins and two European campaigns.

In 1998, he was close to selection for Kevin Keegan's England squad but he opted instead to play for Turkey.

His father is a Turkish Cypriot and Muzzy took out Turkish Citizenship in 2000.

The first of his eight Turkey caps as a Leicester City player was against Sweden in Euro 2000, followed by World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Azerbaijan and a friendly against France.

He made substitute appearances in warm up games for the 2002 World Cup Finals in South Korea and Japan, and played for 20 minutes as a substitute in Turkey's World Cup semi-final defeat at the hands of Brazil, who went on to win the World Cup that year.

His shirt and medal from that game are on display in the Legends' Lounge at King Power Stadium.

2014 - Riyad Mahrez, Algeria

Host nation: Brazil

A youth player with AAS Sarcelles, Riyad Mahrez turned professional with 4th Division French side Quimper in 2009.  In 2010, he moved to Le Havre, initially playing in their reserve side before making 60 appearances in their first team in France’s second tier.

In January 2014, Mahrez moved to Leicester City, then in the Championship, for £400,000.  

He was involved in winning the Championship in 2014.

He took part in the ‘Great Escape’ to ensure Premier League survival in 2014/15. 

He was central to the fantastic achievement of winning the Premier League title in 2015/16 and played a key role in the side which reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2016/17.

Whilst at Leicester City, Mahrez, who could have played for France or Morocco, became an Algerian international - winning over 30 caps to date.

He participated in the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil, playing in the Algerian side which lost 1-0 to Belgium in Belo Horizonte in the group stage.

He also played in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, playing in every game in that tournament before the ‘Desert Foxes’ were eliminated in the quarter-finals.

He was Algeria’s Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016, Arab Player of the Year 2016 and the African Player of the Year in 2016.

Having been short-listed along with Leicester City teammates Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kante, Riyad was named the 2016 PFA Players’ Player of the Year, making him the first African to win this award. 

In addition, Mahrez was also included in the 2016 Premier League PFA Team of the Year along with Wes Morgan, N’Golo Kante and Jamie Vardy.

As a footnote, it is worth mentioning that Leicester City's Northern Ireland international Paul Ramsey was an unused substitute in the 1986 Finals in Mexico.

Scotland international Matt Elliott was also an unused substitute at the 1998 Finals in France.

Elliott's shirt from that tournament is on display in the Legends Lounge at King Power Stadium.

Several other Leicester City players featured in the final stages of World Cup whilst playing for other clubs.

These included Sandy Wood who played for the USA in the inaugural World Cup Finals in Uruguay in 1930, as well as Peter Shilton, Gary Lineker and Pontus Kaamark in more recent times.

All four of these players reached the semi-final stage. 

Latest News

Latest Galleries

Latest Videos

Leicester City Crest

Latest News

More Videos

Latest Images