Ray Clemence: “A true legend” who helped lay “the foundation stones” for Liverpool

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Legendary Liverpool goalkeeper Ray Clemence passed away on Saturday aged 72, leading to a vast array of tributes from former teammates and those in the media.

The former England ‘keeper is widely regarded as the Reds’ greatest ever in the position after making himself an ever-present under Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley.

Signed in 1967, Clemence would make a staggering 665 appearances, the fourth-highest of all-time for the club, before his departure in 1981.

He arrived as a fresh-faced 18-year-old and left with a legacy to be revered having picked up three European Cups, five league titles, two UEFA Cups, a Super Cup, an FA Cup and a League Cup – not to mention a jaw-dropping 323 clean sheets.

A goalkeeper with tremendous talent, Clemence was idolised by many and many sought to honour him with heartfelt tributes across the media following the news of his passing.

 

Members of the media paid tribute to Clemence’s lasting legacy as both a player and person…

Liverpool's Ray Clemence celebrates with the European Cup, 1977 (Peter Robinson/EMPICS Sport)

For the Guardian‘s Peter Mason, Clemence was a level above the rest and his all-round game made certain that he was to be a “permanent success story”:

Supremely athletic, elegant, quick and decisive, Clemence also marshalled his defenders superbly, and with a backline combination of Phil Neal, Alan Kennedy, Phil Thompson and Alan Hansen during the 1978-79 season, he conceded only 16 goals in 42 league matches, keeping a clean sheet in 28.

Though a more than capable shot-stopper, Clemence was one of those goalkeepers who read the game so well he did not always need to fling himself about the goalmouth. His anticipation usually meant he was in the right place at the right time, whether to collect a cross or to reach an attempt on goal.

Of all the great players who performed so impressively for Shankly and Paisley, few proved as permanent a success story as Clemence and even fewer were able to win as much.

Closer to home, Jurgen Klopp spoke touchingly on the goalkeeper being a key pillar for the club we see today as he shared both his sadness and appreciation for an all-time great:

They say it better than I ever could, that Ray Clemence is one of the reasons our club is such a special one all these years later. He was one of the foundation stones that so much of this club’s success was built on.

Our feeling in this moment is of course overwhelmingly sadness, but it is also appreciation. Our fans will remember with fondness an extraordinary player and a wonderful person who contributed so much to Liverpool Football Club.

Ray Clemence dives at the feet of Tottenham’s Alan Gilzean (PA)

The Mirror‘s John Cross reflected on his humble nature and his love for his family:

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.

And Tony Evans, from the Independent, lavished his on-field prowess and his lasting legacy not only for Liverpool but for Tottenham and England:

He was quick off his line and was an early example of the sweeper-keeper. Not only was he a superb shotsaver, a splendid catcher of the ball and a vocal organiser of the defence, but his modern way of playing gave the team the flexibility to do things differently.

He might not have fulfilled his potential in an England shirt but in every other aspect of his life he exceeded expectations. Clemence was a Liverpool great, a Tottenham hero and a man who did his country proud.

 

And his former teammates & ex-Reds shared touching stories and memories…

L-R: Brian Hall, Larry LLoyd, Tommy Smith, Alec Lindsay and Ray Clemence all Liverpool, 1973 ( Peter Robinson/EMPICS Sport)

Phil Thompson started life at Anfield in-front of the legendary shot-stopper and played together for nine years, a spell which left an indelible mark on the club’s former centre-back, when speaking to the club’s official website:

Ray was such a wonderful man and in the icons we have had playing for our football club he has to be high up there, I would think in our top five. To me, Ray is the second-best goalkeeper to Gordon Banks that England has ever had, he was that good.

Clem was my eyes and ears and he would be talking to me constantly, shouting to me and helping me with his experience, and it was great to have someone like that and Emlyn.

Clem was powerful as a person. People talk about leaders in the game and as a goalkeeper Clem was a leader.

When Clem used to run to the Kop and they were all cheering him he wouldn’t even give them a wave because he was that focused. The only time I think he waved was when he came back that time with Tottenham Hotspur when we won the league, when he deservedly got an incredible reception.

What that man gave to this football club was huge and, honestly, we owe him such a debt.

While John Aldridge, writing for the Liverpool Echo, did not play alongside Clemence, time spent together after both their careers ended provided an invaluable opportunity to forge a relationship with the man behind the player:

He was such an iconic figure and, having idolised him from the Kop, it was a real privilege to be get to know him later in life through the Liverpool Former Players Association.

He always loved a laugh and was a big figure in that Liverpool dressing room which had some strong characters in it.

He would always be my pick for goalkeeper in an all-time Liverpool XI and that’s no slight on the other great keepers we’ve had but Ray was simply the best.

It’s a real shame we won’t be in the ground any time soon to pay tribute to him but the ovation he got the first time he came back with Spurs was truly special and I know how much that meant to him. He will be very sadly missed.

Former Liverpool, Tottenham and England goalkeeper Ray Clemence has died (PA)

For Steve Ogrizovic, as quoted by Coventry Live, who was brought in as cover for Clemence in 1977, he couldn’t have asked for a better role model as both a goalkeeper and man – and there was no better way to describe him than “a true legend”:

It was an absolute dream and I probably had to pinch myself every day because I was working, in my opinion, with the world’s best goalkeeper at the time.

It was great to be able to train with him on a regular basis. And there’s no doubt about it that I learned how to be a goalkeeper under his tutelage. I couldn’t have wished to have learned from anyone better.

He was very generous with his advice but, above and beyond that, it’s not just about the footballer, it’s about the person.

He was a very popular player – one of the most popular you could ever wish to meet. He was funny, he knew when to be serious and when to have a laugh, and he was really, really good company, and I am absolutely devastated by the news.

The word legend is probably used far too often these days but when you look at his record, the games he played and who he represented and things that he won, he was a true legend. Not only that, a thoroughly nice person as well.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 17, 2020: A mural of former Liverpool and England goalkeeper Ray Clemence on the gabel end of a terrace house in Anfield pictured before the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 237th Merseyside Derby. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

And Graeme Souness, writing for The Times, was steadfast in his view that he was Liverpool’s “greatest goalkeeper.”

The pair were teammates for three seasons and Souness spoke highly of both his character on and off the field and his supreme ability as the Reds’ sweeper-keeper:

He was Liverpool’s greatest goalkeeper — easily.

He was our sweeper-keeper. People think it’s a new invention — well, they need to watch some videos of him. He would stand on the D of the penalty box when our back four pushed up to the halfway line. They used to tell us not to worry if the ball went over the top because ‘we have a goalkeeper who will sweep up’. He was fearless — and ruthless at times.

Clem was unshakeable. He was also wiry, light and incredibly athletic. At Liverpool he was more interested in playing outfield in training. 

He had a professionalism that you just couldn’t question. He was a good organiser.
He was already a serial winner before I arrived at Liverpool in January 1978. He hated to lose and took it personally if he conceded a goal. He wasn’t a finger-pointer, blaming other people. He took responsibility.

Rest in peace, Ray. You’ll Never Walk Alone.

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