Having started with Liverpool, where he briefly flourished in the first-team, Alan Banks joined Exeter City from Cambridge City and immediately helped his new club gain promotion in 1964. In total, either side of a less-successful stint with Plymouth Argyle, Alan scored over a hundred league goals for the Grecians in a career that was often hampered by injury. Continuing to live locally, and often seen at St James’ Park, Alan was inducted into the Exeter City Hall of Fame in 2014.
Liverpool-born Alan played for Rankin Boys Club in his home city before joining Liverpool as a seventeen-year-old amateur in August 1956. Turning professional in May 1958, Alan made a goalscoring debut for the first-team in a Second Division fixture against Brighton and Hove Albion in September 1958. Playing infrequently, Alan scored once more during the 1958/59 season and four times in 1960/61 (again in the second-tier) before leaving Anfield with the somewhat unlikely record of six goals from eight league appearances.
Moving to Southern League Cambridge City, Alan scored more than 120 goals in just over two seasons and soon began to attract the attention of Football League clubs. Eventually the twenty-five-year-old Alan moved to Devon in October 1963 when Exeter City paid (with various clauses) a total of £5,250 for his services. With Cambridge receiving an initial £3,000 (and Liverpool £2,000) City soon realised they had a bargain when Alan, having made his debut against Tranmere Rovers on 28 October 1963, quickly opened his account with a goal against Oxford United on 9 November 1963.
Coming into a side that had won just five of its first 15 games, Alan’s goals transformed Exeter’s season as - with 15 victories from the remaining 31 games - City finished fourth in Division Four to clinch the club’s first-ever promotion. By this stage Alan had contributed 18 goals from his initial 28 league appearances for the Grecians.
Alan’s ebullient form continued in City’s first season in the third-tier and he had netted eight times in 19 league games when he broke his leg against Port Vale in February 1965. Missing the remainder of the season Alan returned to first-team action on the opening day of 1965/66 when he scored twice against Oldham Athletic. Now becoming a talismanic figure - and one full of energy who never gave up on a chase for a ball - Alan made scoring from one-on-one situations, and from tight angles, into his trademarks as he became Exeter’s leading goalscorer in 1965/66 with 17 goals from 38 league appearances.
With 43 goals from just 86 league appearances, and with both his 28th birthday approaching and City recently-relegated, Alan was ready for a move up the ladder and duly signed for Second Division Plymouth Argyle in May 1966 in a £7,750 deal that also involved goalkeeper Peter Shearing. But Alan never really reproduced such a rich vein of form at Home Park and, after five goals in 19 league matches, was on his way back to Exeter City in November 1967 as part of an £8,000 joint-deal along with John Newman. Slotting back into the groove, Alan made his reappearance against Brentford on 11 November 1967 before contributing six goals from 29 outings over the remainder of the season.
Alan experienced a bitter-sweet 1968/69 season when, suffering a knee injury, he still managed to net 13 times from just 22 league appearances as he finished both top scorer and player of the year. Playing more regularly the following season, Alan added another ten league goals to his tally (again as top-scorer) before having a highly-successful campaign in 1970/71 when he contributed 21 league goals from 40 starts.
This proved to be the only season when Alan played in as many as forty league games and, in retrospect, it was also the end of him being such a regular goalscorer for the Grecians. With a record, to date, of 93 league goals from 208 starts (plus 3 as substitute), Alan’s goal-ratio would have made him a regular 18-goals-a-season player had he ever averaged forty starts in a season.
Having beaten Graham Rees' previous club-record of 85 league goals in February 1971 Alan was presented, on behalf of the club, with a silver salver by the Mayor of Exeter. Continuing into 1971/72 he notched another seven league goals and, appearing far-less frequently during the subsequent campaign, Alan scored his final league goal for the Grecians against Hereford on 14 October 1972 ahead of receiving a free transfer at the end of the season. By then Alan’s tally from his second spell with City had amounted to 58 goals from 173 league games (including substitute appearances) to bring his Exeter City career total to 101 goals from 258 league matches. Overall he had also scored on four occasions in the FA Cup with a similar return from the League Cup.
After leaving St James’ Park Alan signed for Southern League Poole Town and opened, along with his wife Mary, a dress material business in Cowick Street, Exeter. Returning to St James’ Park for a testimonial match against Leicester City in May 1975, Alan also played for Tiverton Town before setting up Exsports in the Guildhall Centre (with other branches following over the years). Always a lively character, and full of enthusiasm for the game, Alan continued to live in Exeter and helped run the club’s team for ex-players as well as becoming involved in matchday hospitality. With his performances for the Grecians lingering in the minds of those who saw him, and with his constant positive presence over the years, Alan became one of the initial inductees into the Exeter City Hall of Fame in 2014.
Appearances as Substitute
|Item: Hall of Fame