Ray Clemence’s achievements as an outstanding person in the field of sport were recognized with an honorary degree by Bishop Grosseteste University in 2011. He was one of English and European football's most decorated goalkeepers but his life started in Lincolnshire.
Raymond Neal Clemence was born in Skegness and started his football journey at the age of nine. Throughout his childhood, Ray surprisingly never wanted to be a goalkeeper and went on to enjoy playing football at both centre-half and left back positions. One day at school they were short of a goalkeeper and the Sportsmaster nominated Ray to go into goal, he was 15 years of age at the time and found that he had a natural ability. However, he still did not have a burning ambition to be a goalkeeper!
As a schoolboy he had a brief spell at Notts County before making his debut for Scunthorpe United in 1966 - at this time he could scarcely have imagined what lay ahead of him. Scunthorpe United weren’t in a position to pay Ray, so he also worked at Skegness beach. It was whilst working at Skegness beach that Scunthorpe United informed Ray that they needed to speak to him. It was to inform him that Liverpool FC had been in touch and were interested in signing him, if he was at all interested - they were presumably hoping that he was not! Ray was, of course, very interested, and was in Liverpool the following day. Ray was spotted and signed by the Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, joining the Reds for £18,000 in 1967, after 48 appearances for Scunthorpe United.
Although Ray had to wait two and a half years before getting a regular first team place, he soon became an Anfield institution in his vivid green shirt and will go down as one of the shrewdest transfer bargains in football history. Tall and agile, with the sharpest of reflexes, he was superbly balanced, kicking with his left foot and throwing with his right hand. Ray’s unflappable and reassuring presence between the sticks inspired confidence in those around him. Bill Shankley went on to say, ‘that with him in goal, Liverpool would have won everything in the 1960s’.
Well, with Ray in goal during the 70’s and early 80’s, Liverpool certainly did go on to win almost everything and during his 11 years in the first team at Liverpool he missed just six league matches, won virtually every major honour in the game and displayed a level of consistency that no Reds' keeper has since matched.
Ray was also a regular for England between 1972 and 1984 and his England career encompassed several World Cup qualification campaigns as well as trips to the European Championship in 1980 and the World Cup Finals in 1982. Ray went on to make a total of 61 appearances for England and to captain the team at Wembley.
Ray left Liverpool in 1981 to join Tottenham Hotspur for a fee of £300,000 and continued in excellent form, playing until he was almost 40 and making over 1000 first team appearances in total. Ray’s club career was nothing short of spectacular. With Liverpool he won three European Cups, five League Championships, the FA cup, the League Cup and two UEFA Cups, while at Tottenham he added a further FA and UEFA cup.
Following such a highly successful playing career is never easy, as many famous sportsmen and women have discovered. But when Ray retired from the professional game in 1988 he immediately joined the coaching staff at Tottenham and soon progressed to the first team, before leaving to manage Barnet in 1994. Three years later, he joined Glen Hoddle’s England team as the goalkeeping coach, a key role he continued to hold under Kevin Keegan, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello. Ray was also the head of the FA’s Development Team, overseeing the England youth teams and working with England U21 coach Stuart Pearce in monitoring young players’ progression to the U21 side.
With Ray’s wealth of knowledge and experience he was regularly invited to appear on television and radio to summarise and co-commentate on major football matches. Ray’s contribution to the game was recognized in 1987 when he was awarded an MBE for services to football. His dedication and love of football was clear throughout his illustrious career.
Ray’s legacy in the world of football is as a performer at the highest level and in the development of people in football, as well as the sport of football itself.