can you say about Pat Jennings, one of the world’s greatest
goalkeepers, that has not been said already ?
From a nervous, gangly young man, who made some elementary mistakes during those first matches for Spurs, in 1964, taking over the mantle of Bill Brown, to the supreme, agile gentle giant, who went on to make nearly six hundred first team appearances. Hands like shovels ? More like JCB diggers !!
He would fly out of the area as if on an invisible trapeze and catch the ball with one hand. He was a one off. Never officially coached, because he was un-coachable. He was unique with a goalkeeping style all of his own. He saved two penalties in one game at Anfield. He scored a goal at Old Trafford in the Charity Shield, leaving a bemused Alex Stepney to glare in disbelief at the celebrating Alan Gilzean.
Liverpool winger, Ian Callaghan, after seeing a goal bound header finger-tipped to safety at White Hart Lane said … “I picked my spot and headed it towards the top right hand corner of the net …I was certain it was in and was just going to turn and celebrate what would have been a 2-1 win. Then this massive great hand appeared from nowhere to flick the ball over the bar. So it ended 1-1. An unbelievable save.”
There were many more great saves to come. One on ones with forwards, flying leaps either side of the goal, point blank saves, saves with his feet, legs and of course, those massive shovels of his.
Of course, there was always the pressure. In the incomparable Hunter Davies book, “The Glory Game”, the author writes of seeing Pat’s hands shaking when walking out to look at the pitch before a game at Leeds. Pat explained that it was part nerves, but more tension … “The concentration put into a game is so high at this level. Often, after a game, I suffer headaches. The pressure is more intense for a goalkeeper. One mistake can cost you the game. Outfield players can make as many mistakes as they like, but keepers cannot, they dare not.”
He was called the Gentle Giant. He was quiet and unassuming. He was a sportsman and one of the game’s greats. I only saw him lose his temper once and that was at Elland Road. Easter 1968. Leeds, under Don Revie, had produced a ten match winning streak and were going strong for the Championship. Players like Hunter, Bremner, Giles, Clarke and Mick Jones were destroying all before them. On the Easter Saturday that unbeaten record came to an end at White Hart Lane, Spurs winning 2-1. The corresponding away fixture came, unusually, within a couple of days at Elland Road on the Tuesday night. The score was 0-0 with about fifteen minutes to go. Spurs were frustrating Leeds and Leeds, being Leeds, resorted to their usual intimidatory and roughhouse tactics to unsettle the Heroes of White Hart Lane. It was not pretty. Leeds fullback, Terry Cooper, kicked out wildly at Alan Gilzean as the wily Scot waltzed past him. Gilzean aimed a kick back, without making contact and was immediately sent off. The ref said nothing to Cooper and with the Elland Road crowd sensing victory over the ten men, Leeds poured forward for the kill. A high ball was pumped into the Spurs penalty area and as usual, Pat came out to make a comfortable catch. Leeds forward, Mick Jones came charging in like an express train and caught Pat with a thigh high tackle. It was late, it was dangerous and it was disgusting. Pat thought so too. Before the ref could have a word with Jones, Pat chased after him and in full view of the referee, kicked the Leeds United player right up the backside. Jones went flying up in the air. The ref pointed to the penalty spot. Dave Mackay was so incensed, he kicked the ball out of the ground. Allan Clarke converted the penalty. A one-nil loss, but on the train home that night, I could not help laughing at the sight of Jones’ face after that mighty boot from Pat.
Nearly ten years later Spurs were relegated to Division Two. Barry Daines had begun to impose himself and Pat found himself no longer first choice. Pat had also had an interest free loan for a new house turned down by the Spurs board. He decided to move on. The fact that it was to that lot that play up near Finsbury Park came as a blow, but he remained loved and cherished by the Spurs faithful. He found new success at Highbury and continued to play brilliantly for Northern Ireland. He returned as goalkeeping coach for Spurs although, I do believe that position has changed and he is no longer at the club. Whatever, the man served Spurs with distinction, honour and valour. Yashin ? Banks ? Zenga ? Shilton ? All great keepers of course. Pat Jennings ? He was the greatest.
Vaya con Dios mi amigos ……………………………………..Pete Hanscomb
Back to homepage