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A safe pair of hands

Updated: Jul 29, 2022

Raymond Neal Clemence MBE (5 August 1948 - 15 November 2020)

Raymondo, as he was affectionately known by Tottenham team mate Ossie Ardilies, was a a true winner. In his career as a goalkeeper he won 5 league titles, 3 European cup victories, 3 UEFA cup titles, 2 FA cups and a League Cup. He is one of a select group of players to have amassed over 1,000 professional appearances. He was unfortunate to have his international career coincide not only with the least successful period in England's history but also the career of Peter Shilton. He collected 61 International caps and for many years the selection headache between him and Shilton was resolved by simply selecting them for alternate matches.

Clemence was born in Skegness and would go onto to be recognised as one of the greatest Goalkeepers in the sport, but he was a reluctant stopper. As a child he played as a centre forward until one day his school team found themselves short at the back. He was nominated to take the position and never returned to play up front again.

He was rejected by Notts County while still a school boy but was able to join Scunthorpe as a 17 year old in 1965. In only his fourth game he conceded seven goals against local rivals Grimsby. Yet he clearly showed promise as legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly identified him as a player he wanted to take to Merseyside while he was scouting another Scunthorpe player who would make his name with the reds, Kevin Keegan.

Shankly was watching when Clemence made what was to be his last appearance for Scunthorpe, a 3-0 defeat to Doncaster. Clemence was at fault for two fo the goals and he recalls he felt he had ruined his big chance. He contemplated giving up on football and training to be an accountant, he took a job stacking deck chairs on Skegness beach fro the summer to supplement his £11 a week wages.

It was while he was stacking deckchairs that his life changed. A man ran up to him, his mum had rang the council to get someone to tell him Scunthorpe had accepted an offer from Liverpool and the clubs were awaiting his decision regarding the move.

Clemence made his debut for Liverpool in a League Cup tie against Swansea on 25 September 1968 almost a year and a half after signing for the Merseyside club, but he was nurtured through the reserves team before becoming the regular first choice keeper in the 69-70 season. He would go on to stack trophies rather than deck chairs as the rock at the back of the most successful era in the history of the club, winning every major piece of silverware except the Cup Winners Cup. He achieved the astonishing feat of only conceding 16 goals in the 42 match long 78-79 season. Of those 16, only 4 at Anfield.

He stunned the footballing world by announcing he wanted a new challenge to prolong his career after representing Liverpool 665 times, having only missed 6 games throughout his time with the reds. He joined Tottenham Hotspur in 1981 for £300,000, reuniting with former Scunthorpe team mate Kieth Burkinshaw. He would then go on to play with the north London team for a further 7 seasons making 330 appearances and winning a UEFA Cup and FA Cup. With his appearance in the 1987 FA Cup final he joined another exclusive group of players, appearing in five or more FA Cup finals. In October of 1987 Clemence suffered an Achilles tendon injury away to Norwich and this would lead to his decision to retire from the game after a twenty two year career.

His son Stephen went on to keep the tradition of the family name alive at Tottenham as he became a first team midfielder with the club between 1997 and 2003.

Clemence then joined the Tottenham coaching team before becoming manager of Barnet in 1994. From 1996 he became part of the England International Coaching staff. He worked with former Tottenham team mate Glenn Hoddle and continued under Liverpool team mate Keegan, and then with Sven-Göran Eriksson. After being replaced under the Fabio Capello reign he returned with Roy Hodgson. He retired from these responsibilities in 2013.

Clemence was immensely popular with team mates and fans and is still held in high regard by both Tottenham and Liverpool fans.

The shot stopper had been diagnosed with Prostate cancer in 2005 and even battled a brain tumour before succumbing to the disease. His family released a short statement expressing their relief that Ray was now at peace and in no more pain. He is survived by his wife Veronica, his son Stephen and daughters Sarah and Julie.


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