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Pat at 60: The early days

Posted on 31 August 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.


In our special series, Pat looks back on the early days, turning professional, moving to Spurs, Arsenal, Northern Ireland, World Cups and the present day, all in his own words.

Part One: The early days


THE ONLY games we played in Catholic schools in Ireland were Gaelic — Gaelic football and hurling. Soccer was a foreign game in Catholic schools in those days. However, away from school it was soccer. There was a famous player called Peter McParland who lived literally 200 yards from me and he won an FA Cup winners medal with Aston Villa in 1957, scoring both goals in the final against Manchester United. He was our local hero and everyone was soccer mad.


There were competitions in the streets and we would adopt famous teams’ names. That was my first introduction to soccer and as an 11-year-old, I was playing in an Under-19 league in Newry. We played under the name of Shamrock Rovers. That league only ran for one year basically because of the lack of soccer facilities, even though we’d get 13, 14 hundred people coming out to watch it. The complex we used to play at is now called the Pat Jennings Park, so that’s nice.


I played in goal in those days but when I played Gaelic football I actually played outfield until I was 15 or 16. I never dreamt about becoming a professional footballer or that it would ever be available as a profession to me, it was only when I started playing in a street league locally that I thought I could make it in football. There was no such thing as football coaches in those days and I just enjoyed throwing myself around. Looking back, playing Gaelic football gave me the perfect grounding because you go for everything with your hands.


We played football in those days just because we loved it. We were out many a morning at 8am playing in our back yard. I had six brothers and one sister and we often played before going to school. We did it for the love of the game — I never even dreamt about a career in the sport. I couldn’t believe my luck when it actually happened.


I only went to school for the sport! Gaelic football, basketball — I loved the sports but I hated school and couldn’t wait to get away and get any sort of job. In Ireland in those days work was in short supply. You couldn’t pick a job and were lucky to get any sort of a job. When I was a kid I tried all sorts — delivering papers, milk, you name it just to get a few bob.