NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 340
Submitted by Norman Giller
I watched England’s two-faced performance against Belgium last night with a heavy heart, following the passing of goalkeeping master Ray Clemence. Yes, he had his best days at Liverpool but he continued to show quality and courage between the posts when arriving at Tottenham.
There are plenty of good judges who put Ray second only to the peerless Pat Jennings as the greatest custodian to represent the Lilywhites. He was not only a supreme goalkeeper, but a superior human being who was a class act on and off the pitch.
A smile was never far away from Clem’s lips, and he lifted every dressing-room with his personality and sporting spirit. It was never win at all costs with Ray, but playing for pride, pleasure and satisfaction. He was a magnificent last line of defence in the great Liverpool team of the 1970s and then brought strength and stability to the back of the Tottenham defence,
His 61 England caps would have been many more but for his rivalry with the outstanding Peter Shilton. Typical of Clem, he never let his competition for the England jersey develop into enmity and the two of them were close friends throughout and after their playing careers.
The last time I saw Ray was at the funeral of Gordon Banks in March 2019, and I sensed then that he was in trouble. He had been fighting prostate cancer on and off for fourteen years and his death yesterday was a release after an exhausting battle.
In our final conversation he talked to me warmly of his days at Spurs, both as goalkeeper and a coach with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the game and the footballers who played it. He was fiercely proud to be made a member of the Tottenham Hall of Fame in 2014.
Throughout his ordeal, Clem elected himself a spokesman for the disease that he knew would eventually kill him. His message that he asked me (and anybody who interviewed him) to convey was: ‘Go for regular check-ups. The earlier they detect prostate cancer the better the chance of bringing it under control.’
Our thoughts are with his wife Veronica, daughters Sarah and Julie, and his son Stephen, who of course was a respected midfielder with Spurs and is now a coach at Newcastle United.
The England players last night wore black armbands in memory of Clem. What a pity they could not mark his passing with a victory, but Ray would have accepted defeat graciously and with dignity. That was the kind of man he was.
As for the match, I was just relieved to see Tottenham’s three representatives (Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Harry Winks, plus Toby Alderweireld for Belgium) come through unscathed, although I will admit concern that Harry Kane’s knock on the base of his spine during a fall could come back to haunt him.
The lasting memory of the game will be the scintillating second-half performance from Jack Grealish. It was the nearest England have had to a real flair player since Gazza was lighting up pitches with his style and smile. Just think, if Tottenham had gone in just a little bolder they might have bought Jack the Lad from Aston Villa last year.
To remind you where we are when the club season resumes on Saturday, this is the mountain of fixtures facing Spurs to the end of this surreal year:
Sat 21 Nov Man City (home, 5.30, Premier League)
Thur 26 Nov Ludogrets (home, 8.00, Europa League)
Sun 29 Nov Chelsea (away, 4.30, Premier League)
Thur 3 Dec Lask (away, 5.55, Europa League)
Sat 5 Dec Arsenal (home, TBD, Premier League)
Thur 10 Dec Antwerp (home, 8.00, Europa League)
Sat 12 Dec C. Palace (home, 3.00, Premier League)
Wed 16 Dec Liverpool (away, 8.00, Premier League)
Sat 19 Dec Leicester (home, 3.00 Premier League)
Wed 23 Dec Stoke (away, 5.30, League Cup quarter-final)
Sat 26 Dec Wolves (away, 3.00, Premier League)
Mon 28 Dec Fulham (home, 3.00, Premier League)
Wonder where we will stand at the end of that little lot? Stay safe. COYS!
Another of my old mates – entertainer Des O’Connor – passed away yesterday. We were born a couple of streets apart in Stepney in the East End, and our paths often crossed when I was scriptwriting for a living in Des’s world of television.
If you don’t mind some more name dropping and a sort of football story – I was at the wedding of Eric Morecambe’s daughter, Gail, back in the early 1980s. I was sat next to Des O’Connor at the wedding to which Eric always joked ‘he was not invited but came anyway.’
Des was telling me about his days as a young footballer on Northampton Town’s books. Eric overheard and shouted down the table: ‘What a load of Cobblers.’
Happy days. Eric Morecambe, Des O’Connor … Ray Clemence … we will not see their like again. RIP.
The 11th week of season seven of the Spurs Odyssey Quiz League challenge, and the question is:
Who joined Tottenham from Dundee, scored more than 50 goals and which manager sold him to Derby County in 1979?
Please email your answer to me at SOQL11@normangillerbooks.com. Deadline: midnight this Friday. I will respond to all who take part.
The rules are the same as in previous seasons. I ask a two-pronged question with three points at stake – two for identifying the player and one for the supplementary question. In the closing weeks of the competition I break the logjam of all-knowing Spurs-history experts with a tie-breaking poser that is based on opinion rather than fact.
This year’s prizes for the champion: a Harry Kane framed and signed photo two, books from my Greavsie collection with autographs from Jimmy Greaves, Steve Perryman and Dave Mackay, and, most important of all, a framed certificate announcing the winner as SOQL champion.
Last week’s SOQL question: Who won 34 international caps playing at both centre-forward and centre-half, was bought by his old manager David Pleat, and which club did he join from Tottenham?
The answer: The big-hearted Irish international Gary Doherty, affectionately known as the Ginger Pele, who moved on to Norwich City, where he became something of a cult hero.
See you back here same time, same place next week. COYS!
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