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Farewell Andy Rankin, Faithful Servant to Everton

Penalty saving expert goalkeeper Rankin died on Monday

Andy Rankin, 1964
Andy Rankin saving for Everton during a 4-0 win over Liverpool
Photo by Ernest Chapman/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

In a day and age when footballers change clubs frequently, it is nice to recognise loyalty when it happens. I was lucky enough to see Andy Rankin on many occasions for Everton in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Rankin grew up in my hometown of Bootle and was, so to speak, famous around those parts even though for the majority of his career he played as deputy to the more well known goalkeeper Gordon West. Andy had attended my school, Bootle Grammar School for Boys and though he had left a number of years earlier than I joined, the school sports staff still spoke of him fondly and proudly. As a budding 11 year old goalkeeper myself I had been regularly reminded of the famous Andy Rankin!

He was well known as a young goalkeeper for sporting very much a “Beatles John Lennon-style moptop” haircut and I remember older supporters at the time suggesting he got it cut so he could see better!!!

Andy Rankin, 1964
Andy Rankin pictured in Liverpool in 1964
Photo by Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

He played just 85 games across 8 seasons for the Blues, largely because of the consistency of Gordon West who was rarely injured and considered to be in the top 3 goalkeepers in the league. Make no mistake though, he was a very able deputy to West, nobody got close to them.

There was a defining moment for Rankin’s career on a cold winter’s night at Goodison Park in 1970. I’m proud to say it was an “I was there” moment. During a penalty shoot out with Everton just having edged ahead in “sudden death”, Rankin threw himself low to his right to save a penalty from Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Muller and send Everton through to the quarter finals of the European Cup (nowadays the Champions League). In front of the packed Gwladys Street end, I swear the celebratory leap from Rankin as he punched the air afterwards was way the highest I have ever seen.

Arsenal v Everton, 1967
The mop-topped Andy Rankin pictured with star players of the 1960s including Alan Ball
Photo by Phillips/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Andy Rankin went on to play for many years after leaving Everton in 1971. Mainly for Watford (329 appearances in 9 seasons) and he finished his career at Huddersfield Town in 1982 (71 appearances in 2 seasons).

He established himself as a very agile penalty saving expert having saved 3 at Everton and 4 at Watford (including 3 in one season).

He is remembered for another defining moment at Watford against Manchester United in an FA Cup tie. Watford became very much his second football “home”. The Watford Observer reported:

“The Watford rearguard withstood everything United could throw at them until, it seemed, the 85th minute.

Giant Manchester United defender Gordon McQueen, also passed away recently, got up to meet a corner with a header that was on its way to the top corner.

As the late Scotsman put it: “I placed that header perfectly. I knew it was a goal, then I saw a green thing appear with a hand on the end of it. It was one of the most incredible saves I have ever seen.”

Watford boss Graham Taylor added: “They were all great, but a special word for Andy. What a fantastic save that was. The best save I have ever seen. That must be the crowning moment of his career.”

Rankin died on Monday aged 79. One of the greatest goalkeeping moments ever witnessed at Goodison Park, he sent this teenager (at the time) home very happy and he will live long in the memory of more senior Evertonians. Even Gordon McQueen acknowledged him as a “green thing with a hand”! RIP Andy, you will be remembered!