The class of Ray Clemence as a man is highlighted after he received one of the worst bits of news in his career.
Former England boss Ron Greenwood used to rotate Clemence and Peter Shilton as first choice goalkeepers for the best part of ten years up until the 1982 World Cup.
Clemence won everything with Liverpool, Shilton was magnificent for Brian Clough’s all conquering Nottingham Forest. They were arguably the best two keepers in the world.
Greenwood had to decide on a No1 for the tournament, called them both in and broke the news on the eve of the tournament that Shilton would be in goal.
Incredibly, the two keepers were great friends to such an extent that they used to room together on international duty, go out drinking after games and yet Clemence never held it against his great rival.
“We went back to the room and not once was there every any bitterness,” said Shilton. “That was the measure of the man.”
They even recorded a record together, entitled Side By Side.
“Let’s put it this way, it didn’t reach the top of the charts.” said Shilton.
Despite the focus on that rivalry, no-one will ever forget just how good Clemence was in his own right.
One of the all time great goalkeepers, a legendary figure at Liverpool, highly regarded after a career renaissance at Tottenham and one of England’s very best.
But Clemence was also regarded as a great coach, was supportive to former England keepers when he joined the coaching staff – helping Paul Robinson through a dark time – and was a thoroughly nice man.
Clemence was also a fighter, he overcame cancer twice and was still sending out text messages while in hospital right until the very end.
When last month there was an appeal for people to send messages of support because word got out that he was struggling again, Clemence was overwhelmed by the affection and respect that he was held in.
Current Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker put up a goodwill message on Twitter and it clearly touched Clemence who thanked him warmly from a fellow member of the “goalkeeper’s union.”
When you are as good as Clemence, then you are never forgotten. Clemence won five titles, three European Cups, two UEFA Cups, an FA Cup and a League Cup at Liverpool.
He was always calm, reassuring for his defenders and was supremely agile and had remarkable reflexes.
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Back in the 1978/9 title winning season, Clemence conceded just 16 goals back in the days when there were 42 games in a season.
It remains a club record. Just to offer some context, the fewest in the Premier League era was 15 by Chelsea in the 2004/5 season but they played just 38 games.
Liverpool regard him as an all-time great, a mural was painted in his honour on the side of a house in Wylva Road near Anfield.
It was unveiled in September with Clemence’s trademark green Umbro jersey, beaming smile and a wonderful tribute from Bill Shankly.
Shankly’s tribute was from his time as manager and reads: “Ray has everything. He’s quick, he doesn’t want to be beaten. He’s just a great goalkeeper.”
The great thing about Clemence was his path into the game.
He was born in Skegness, worked as a deck chair attendant, used to practice on the beach, started at Scunthorpe and Liverpool signed him for just £18,000 in 1967.
He worked his way up to become European champion.
Clemence always stayed grounded from those humble beginnings.
He was one of English football’s all time greats and yet always remained a true gentleman who was devoted to his wife Veronica, his daughters Sarah and Julie, and his son Stephen.
Stephen played for Spurs and Leicester and Clemence said his appearance for England schoolboys at Wembley was “one of the proudest days of my life.”
A lovely man which is why his death was met with so many tributes, such an outpouring of love for a goalkeeper who will go down in football folklore.