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Pat at 60: Moving to England

Posted on 1 September 2005  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

Pat Jennings turned 60 this summer and to mark the occason, we look back on the career of the goalkeeper many consider the best in the world...ever.


The facts say it all. 'Big Pat' played 673 games for Spurs between 1964-1977 and another 300-plus at Arsenal before winding down his career in a second spell at White Hart Lane. He also played 119 times for Northern Ireland, including two World Cups.


In his time at White Hart Lane, he won the FA Cup in 1967, League Cup in 1971 and 1973, UEFA Cup in 1972 and on a personal level, the PFA (1975-76) and Football Writers' Player Of The Year (1972-73) Awards.


Part two: Moving to England


MY BROTHER Brian had played for Newry United, the second string of the Newry Town team that played in the Irish B League. I was 16 going on 17 and the Newry United goalkeeper was leaving to go and find work in England. They remembered that I used to play when I was younger and asked me down for a couple of training sessions and maybe a game.


I was working my father for a timber firm in those days, hard work. After about a month of persuading I went to Newry United for Tuesday and Thursday sessions and went straight into the team. I then started off with two clean sheets and finished that year winning the Irish Junior Cup. It moved so quickly from training, playing and then winning the Junior Cup — that was a massive competition with 300 teams.


At the start of the next season I went into the Newry Town team in the Irish B League, not the Irish League but still a good standard. About September, October time the chairman came to me and said he was putting me forward for Irish youth trials. I asked him what that meant and he told me that if I was successful, I would go through to play for Ireland in the World Youth Cup in England. My first reaction was I didn’t want to go because I’d never been further north than Derry or further south than Dublin and if I made the trip I would be away for 15 days. That’s how much I thought about playing professional at that time! However, I later played in the Irish Cup against Crusaders and the Crusaders chairman, who was in charge of selection committee, said he would love to see me in the Northern Ireland team. It was only then, when I got in amongst the Irish lads and two or three were at professional clubs in England, I thought ‘I can do this’.


The tournament was like a shop window. We had 10 days in England and managed to get through to the final to play England at Wembley Stadium. You can imagine the impact that had on the folks back home. Unless you played in a cup final or for England, no-one ever go to play there. You can imagine — two weeks before I was cutting timber in Belfast and now I was playing on the famous turf at Wembley. We went on to lose that final 4-0 with the likes of Ron Harris and Tommy Smith playing for England.


I went back to Ireland after that tournament but I was only there for two days when I was told that Watford and Coventry City were interested in me. Stan Berry was the chief scout at Watford and he came over to visit me and the deal was done to go to Watford.