Saturday, January 29

Ray Clemence, the chaise boy


  • In the 70s of the last century he became a legend and one of the best goalkeepers in the history of Liverpool.

  • Deceased a month ago, he only missed six games between 1970 and 1981 when he left the club after winning the European Cup against Madrid.

The one of Ray clemence It is the story that so many goalkeepers wrote before him. A boy who starts playing football in any position and who, one fine day, due to the absence of the usual goal, has to stand between the posts. And no one takes her out of there anymore. TO ‘Platform’ (nickname by which all his friends knew him) happened to him in Skegness, the small coastal town in the northeast English where he was born in 1948.

He grew up fast and because of his size he played center-back on his school team. Football designed for learning, as just another subject, with the physical education teacher acting as coach. On one occasion, the goalkeeper caught a bad cold and was absent from a game. The professor entered the locker room and pointed at him: “Lightning, today you are the goalkeeper. “And contrary to what he imagined at first, he loved the experience. He was 14 years old at the time, another 27 awaited him in that trade.

Debut with 17 years

It was in modest Scunthorpe that his career really began. He came there bounced from Notts County that had ruled him out for his youth team. Modest football (the English ‘Third Division’) where he played in exchange for 11 pounds a week. They made him debut at 17 years old and in his fourth game he conceded seven goals, a hideous humiliation. At the end of the match, Gordon smith, the stout and veteran goalkeeper who acted as a substitute and who had given way to him with great elegance, sat down next to him and said: “Don’t worry. You have already experienced your worst afternoon as a goalkeeper. All those who come now will be better. You should feel liberated. ”

And he was right. Ray clemence it became one of the compelling reasons for Scunthorpe not to continue sinking in the different categories of English football. Surely overlooked, spectacular at times, thrown when necessary … so much so that scouts from the main British clubs began to drop by in the old Glanford Park, alerted by the rumors that were heard in the big stadiums about a giant who defended the goal of ‘The Iron’.

The visit of the Liverpool manager

In the last game of his second season at the club, 1966-67, Scunthorpe paid a visit to Doncaster, a team that was already relegated. There was nothing at stake, a simple game to close the club’s mediocre campaign and start enjoying a few weeks off. Upon arrival at the stadium Ray clemence found out that Bill shankly, the Liverpool manager, was in the stands. The reason for his presence in the modest Doncaster stadium was not long in coming. He had come to see that doorman who had been told so well about. Clemency he lost all the confidence shown during the eight months that the season had lasted. He went out onto the field completely seized by responsibility to play an inconsequential game and paid for it. Scunthorpe lost 3-0 and two of the goals had been their fault. Two serious mistakes that embittered him completely. He left the field in silence and arrived home with a shattered morale. His parents approached him and he only managed to say: “I just threw my future out the window.” And he went to sleep.

Ray clemence he lived that defeat at Doncaster with infinite pain. And also with resignation. After that he found work on the beach at Skegness where he collected the sun loungers that were rented to tourists in the summer. A modest salary with which to go pulling because the 11 pounds per week of the Scunthorpe is not that they gave much.

The most anticipated call

He had been installed on that beach for a couple of weeks and the wound of Doncaster it was starting to heal even though it was doing it too slowly. His neighbors, the same ones he rented the loungers from, helped lift his spirits. One morning, while preparing the beach for the arrival of the first bathers, he saw in the distance a man whom he did not know at all who was calling out to him. It was a city hall clerk who was looking for him at the urging of his mother. The woman needed to send him an urgent message and she could not think of anything else than to phone the mayor and ask him to please find her son to deliver a message. The Scunthorpe had just closed its sale for £ 18,000. Liverpool had hired him to defend Anfield’s goal.

Two days later Clemency he finally met Bill shankly who joked with him about his performance in Doncaster. “You failed, but the decision did not depend on that game” he said with a laugh. Liverpool had been following a list of young British goalkeepers for months to prepare for the relief they would inevitably have to do in goal in a short space of time. Tommy lawrenceA small celebrity at Anfield, they had been Liverpool’s starter for eight seasons and at 28 it was time to prepare for his successor. A process that under the traditional rules of English football required a high dose of patience.

January 1970

Ray clemence learned the trade with Lawrence who remained in the post until January 1970. He was under its shadow for a little more than two years. After a traumatic elimination in the quarter-finals of the English Cup Bill shankly He called the Scottish porter to his small office, served him tea, and paternally informed him that it was time to step back. “On Saturday against Nottingham Forest he will play Lightning”. Lawrence blessed the decision. He knew perfectly well that ten years ago there was another doorman sitting in the same place as him drinking coffee and hearing the same announcement from the mouth of Shankly.

For the next eleven seasons Ray clemence he would only miss six league games. One of them was precisely so that Tommy lawrence Enjoy your last afternoon defending Liverpool’s goal before leaving the club forever. Clemency it became one of the essential pieces of a unique team. His titles and his personal numbers say it as the 16 goals that he only conceded in one season and that seemed unbeatable until Chelsea reduced him to 15 just five years ago. From 1970 to 1981 they won five Leagues, five Charity Shields, one English Cup, one League Cup, two UEFA Cups, one European Super Cup and, most importantly, three European Cups.

A Cup against Madrid

It was after winning the last one, at Real Madrid in the Parc des Princes in Paris thanks to a solitary goal of Alan Kennedy, when he made an unexpected decision. He did not do it alone. The best friend I had on that squad, Kevin Keegan, decided exactly the same. Clemency He decided to leave Liverpool and that it was not Liverpool who left him. In the midst of the glory that he lived after being proclaimed champion of Europe again, he understood that it was impossible to leave at a better time, at the top of European football dressed in the shirt of the club of his life. He was 32 years old, he knew his expiration was near and, unlike his predecessors, he did not want to have the famous talk in the coach’s office.

He then went to Tottenham while Keegan made it to Hamburg. In London, in a more modest team, he would still conquer an English Cup and a UEFA Cup while fattening the number of games with a clean sheet (in more than half of the 758 matches played in the elite he did not receive a goal) . An image remains for posterity from his first visit to Anfield. His exit to the field in the second half when it was his turn to defend the goal next to ‘The Kop’. Few ovations are remembered similar to the one that his faithful dedicated to him that afternoon.

Defeated by disease

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He was pending in his career to have more prominence in the English team. Shared time with Peter shilton that he was always the one chosen to play the final stages of the big tournaments. The rivalry between the two was a reef for the English press. In 1988, with almost 40 years in tow, he made the decision to hang up his gloves forever. He dedicated himself to working, first at Tottenham and then at the English Federation, in the search for new and better goalkeepers than him.

In 2005 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer from which he had initially recovered well. But eventually the tumor reappeared and there was no way to stop it. One month ago Ray clemence He passed away at his home in Liverpool dreaming of returning to Anfield again.


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