My World Cup - Pat Jennings
26 June 2014|Tottenham Hotspur
Goalkeeping legend Pat Jennings speaks about his memories of the World Cup as this year’s tournament enters the knockout stages in Brazil.
What was the first World Cup you can recall watching?
I can just about remember watching the 1958 tournament on TV back home in Northern Ireland. That was the year all four British sides reached the finals.
Who were the stars you remember from that tournament?
From Northern Ireland’s point of view, it was the likes of centre forward Peter McParland and goalkeeper Harry Gregg. Peter was a fellow Newry man, he lived in the same street as me and scored five goals for his country at the World Cup, against Argentina, West Germany and Czechoslovakia. Harry was voted as the top goalkeeper at the tournament and he would be the man I replaced when I came into the side a few years later. There was also a young Brazilian called Pele who wasn’t bad!
Have you ever been to a World Cup match as a supporter?
Not exactly as a supporter but I was fortunate to go to the semi-final and final in 1966. In those days, if we wanted to see any international, Bill Nick would sort tickets for us as he saw it as a learning curve, so I went to those two games. At Spurs, we’d actually played against the Mexico team in the Azteca Stadium on my 21st birthday, a week before they flew out to England! The heat was unbearable and the late Keith Weller scored the only goal of the game. England then beat them a few weeks later at Wembley in their group match. That was a great England side, every one of them was a top footballer.
If there was one World Cup game you could have gone to, which one would it be and why?
Well it would have been the ‘66 Final, so I was delighted to have been lucky enough to be there that day. The atmosphere inside the stadium was just fantastic and what an incredible game it was. End to end, a real rollercoaster match and what a way to win it in with Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick.
Have you ever represented your country at the World Cup before?
Yes, in 1982 and 1986. As a nation, Northern Ireland had been trying to qualify again since 1958 and I was starting to think it wouldn’t happen for us. Then we managed to reach World Cup 1982 in Spain and that was fantastic. But I picked up an injury and was a doubt right up until the start of the tournament, but made it in the end. We drew 0-0 against Yugoslavia, then faced Honduras who had been written off by our press. But they gave us the hardest game and we drew again, 1-1. So we needed to beat the hosts Spain to reach the second round and the atmosphere was incredible in Valencia that night. We scored through Gerry Armstrong early in the second half and then had Mal Donaghy sent off, so we were really hanging on. But we got the win... an amazing result. We lost to France eventually, but four years later we qualified again in Mexico. And incredibly, we played Brazil on my 41st birthday this time! We lost 3-0, Josimar scored that screamer, but if you had to pick a team to go out to, it would be Brazil.
What are the best memories you have of your own country at the World Cup?
Beating Spain in 1982, without a doubt. I think a lot of the squad were already packed up ready to go home before the game because it was such a big task for us. They were the hosts, we were down to 10 men, but we got the win we needed. It was one of the greatest nights of my career.
What has been the best match you’ve ever seen at the Finals?
The 1966 Final was certainly memorable but there have been some great finals down the years. Dino Zoff lifting the trophy after Italy beat West Germany in 1982 and then of course there was that fantastic final in 1970 when Brazil, with the likes of Pele, Rivelino and Carlos Alberto, beat Italy playing some of the best football I’ve ever seen.
And what has been the best goal?
Well Josimar’s goal past me wasn’t bad, was it? If had wings I wouldn’t have saved that one! Bobby Charlton’s strike against Mexico in 1966 was a fantastic strike too. For me though, I’d prefer to pick a save and of course there has been none better than Gordon Banks’ save from Pele in 1970... as good as it gets.
Who do you think will have a big impact at the 2014 World Cup?
The usual suspects of course, Germany, Brazil, Argentina.
Which two teams do you fancy to make it to the final, and who will lift the trophy?
I’ll go for Germany and one other... but it really could be any two from about eight teams.