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Pat Jennings – Tottenham Hotspur Legend (5)


Pat Jennings – Tottenham ‘Legend’

Pat Jennings, Tottenham’s legendary goalkeeper has been a great ambassador for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and Northern Ireland throughout his lengthy career.

Jennings was a young, inexperienced goalkeeper when Bill Nicholson signed him from Watford in June, 1964 for £27,000. The manager of Watford when Jennings signed from Newry Town in 1963 for £6,000 was Ronnie Burgess who played over 450 League and Cup games for Spurs and captained the ‘Push and Run’ side which won the 2nd Division and 1st Division titles in consecutive seasons from 1949 to 1951.

Pat Jennings, prior to signing for Spurs, had just won his first two Northern Ireland international caps and had played only 48 League games for Watford in his year with the club when Nicholson decided to buy him. He had made his International debut for Northern Ireland against Wales in April, 1964 at the age of eighteen in the same team as George Best, helping Northern Ireland to a 3 – 2 victory in the Home International Championships. He went on to make 119 appearances for his country and played in two World Cup Finals in Spain in 1982 and in Mexico four years later. In Spain, Northern Ireland memorably defeated the host nation to top their group and progress to the next stage. He retired from club football in 1985 but continued to play for Northern Ireland until the completion of their participation in the 1986 World Cup finals.  His last match was on his 41st birthday against Brazil.

Jennings played for Tottenham for thirteen years and made 472 League appearances for the club and 118 in Cup competitions. With manager, Bill Nicholson looking to rebuild his team following the demise of the ‘Double’ team, Jennings, just as he had done the previous year with Watford, stepped straight into the Spurs team in place of Bill Brown. His debut was in August, 1964 against Sheffield United at White Hart Lane on the opening day of the season in a 2 – 0 win. Initially, Nicholson must have had doubts about Jennings as he took time to settle and during his first two seasons he shared goalkeeping duties with Brown.  By the start of 1966-67 Jennings had made the position his own and after  a few months Brown was allowed to join Northampton Town. For the next eleven seasons Jennings was first choice goalkeeper at White Hart Lane.

He helped Spurs win the FA Cup in 1967, the League Cup in 1971 and 1973 and the UEFA Cup of 1972 and to the UEFA Cup Final of 1984. His total of almost 600 League and Cup appearances is littered with numerous match winning performances and a goal having scored in the 1967 Charity Shield game against Manchester United at Old Trafford in a 3 – 3 draw, scoring with a long kick down field which deceived Alex Stepney.

Jennings is remembered for his ability to go out to catch the ball with one hand and for his numerous match winning saves. His two penalty saves at Anfield as Spurs earned a 1 – 1 draw in 1973 are part of Spurs legend and after a UEFA Cup game in Switzerland in the same year, Spurs returned with a resounding 5 – 1 victory over Grasshopper Zurich but it was Jennings who received all the plaudits for his performance that evening.

He won the Football Writers’ Player of the Year Award in 1973 and the Professional Footballers’ Association award in 1976.

It was only in his last season that Jennings was troubled by injury and as Spurs were relegated manager Keith Burkinshaw made the unbelievable decision to release Jennings in favour of his young understudy, Barry Daines, believing that Jennings was past his best.  Jennings moved to Arsenal for a token fee of £45,000 and gave them years of outstanding service, leaving Burkinshaw with many years to regret his decision.

Pat Jennings’ last League game for Tottenham was at White Hart Lane in the final game of the 1976-77 season. Relegated Tottenham put their woes behind them to defeat Leicester City. Jennings kept a clean sheet in the 2 – 0 win.

Jennings speaking to a Cork Supporters’ group in 2003 said that a few years after he’d left Spurs he met Keith Burkinshaw who told him that he now realised that  he’d made a big mistake in letting Pat go to Arsenal, something Spurs supporters could have told him in August 1977.

Jennings hadn’t wanted to leave White Hart Lane and it was a great disappointment to Spurs fans that he was released, made worse by joining Arsenal. He was such a hero and so highly regarded by everyone at Tottenham, however, that he has always been respected and was welcomed back warmly at the end of his career. He returned to White Hart Lane in 1985 as cover for Ray Clemence but primarily to stay fit for Northern Ireland’s World Cup campaign in Mexico in the summer of 1986.  He retired on his forty first birthday as Northern Ireland were eliminated from the competition by Brazil.

Ironically, Jennings was 32 years old when Spurs released him and it took them four years to find a suitable replacement, signing Ray Clemence from Liverpool in 1981, aged 33 years.

On retiring from playing, Jennings took on the role of goalkeeping coach/consultant at Tottenham and is still involved with the club in their corporate and hospitality activities on match days.

Pat Jennings, was honoured by UEFA at Northern Ireland’s international Euro2012 match against Serbia at Windsor Park, Belfast in September, 2011. He was among a number of players to be honoured by UEFA in recognition of winning over one hundred international caps for their country.

Tottenham have been fortunate to have had a number of outstanding goalkeepers over the years and Pat Jennings’ performances set him apart as Spurs’ greatest goalkeeper. He was a  great goalkeeper, sportsman and a true gentleman – a worthy Tottenham ‘Legend’.