Ray Clemens won five league titles and three European Cups against Liverpool from 1967 to 1981.
Ray Clemens, who died at the age of 72, was simply one of the greatest goalkeepers of the post-war generation, with a brilliant track record in Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, a monument to his talent.
Born in Skegnes, Clemens played an important role in Liverpool’s major parties led by Bill Shankley and Bob Paisley in the 1970s and early 1980s, who attacked them at home and abroad before leaving Enfield to achieve great success on White Hart Lane.
And while Clemens won an impressive 61 English caps in his 11-year international career, that figure could have been much higher, but with Peter Shilton as a rival to a manager, Ron Greenwood often couldn’t choose between the two and preferred a policy of change that actually hides his hesitations.
Clemens had a career as a manager at Barnet and was also a member of the Spurs coaching staff before becoming an important member of the English back office staff – but it is as a brilliantly skilled, reliable and highly decorated goalkeeper that he will strengthen his place in history, and for that he will be remembered forever.
The young Clemens was discovered by Liverpool manager Shankley, who played for Scunthorpe United, and his future Liverpool and England partner Kevin Keegan, and signed for £18,000 in June 1967.
Clemens was originally the understudy of veteran Tommy Lawrence, but was the first choice after Shankley decided to replace the great old Enfield Guards in February 1970 after a disastrous quarterfinal defeat in the Watford Football Cup, then at the foot of the old second division.
It was the beginning of a career that led to Clemens being considered the best goalkeeper in Liverpool, with His Majesty being underlined by both honour and longevity.
The seeds of Liverpool’s second major team, created by Schenkley, were sown immediately after the Scots decided to disband the successful 60s team. The first signs of what would follow were visible when they reached the finals of the 1971 FA Cup to lose to double winners Arsenal.
Liverpool did everything they could in the years that followed, when Clemens became an unprecedented last line of defense, possessing the invaluable ability to overcome long periods of inactivity and concentrate to save the decisive games that were won in many cases.
In 1972-73 the Shanks won the UEFA title and the UEFA Cup, a feat they repeated in 1975-76. In Europe they beat Borussia Monchengladbach and Club Brugge – two teams that will play an even more important and glorious role in the history of Clemens and Liverpool later in the decade.
In 1974, the AFA Cup ended in a 3-0 victory over Newcastle United, followed by Liverpool’s 3-1 Holy Grail final victory over Borussia Monchengladbach in Rome.
In this historic season Liverpool won the title again, but then lost the AFA Manchester United Cup final on Saturday for the European Cup final. Clemens, who immediately after the defeat at Wembley led a noisy and daring ring game, played an important role in showing his leadership qualities and optimism.
Clemens was often more enthusiastic about playing off-target than in his usual position at Meldwood, which he revealed in his role as an improvised physical attacker and which enthused his teammates during practice, but he was a perfectionist when it came to serious matters and Shankley, with a typical stupidity, insisted he was the best in the world and did not want to argue against that opinion.
He won two more European Cups, in 1978 against Club Brugge in Wembley and in 1981 against Real Madrid in Paris. He then shocked Liverpool and their fans and a few weeks after this triumph he decided to leave town and move to the Spurs.
By the time he left Liverpool, he had won five titles, three European Cups, two UEFA Cups, the AFA Cup and the League Cup, giving him more than 665 first team appearances.
In his first season, after ending his long commitment to Enfield Clemens, Clemens was on the finishing line for Liverpool’s success, beating his former club in the final of the League Cup. However, when he first returned in May 1982, he was greeted enthusiastically by his beloved policeman, who was filmed on the day of the match.
The fresco by Ray Clemens was unveiled last month near Enfield in the presence of members of his family.
Liverpool’s 3-1 victory on an emotional day confirmed another title, but this time the player who enjoyed all the glory of yesteryear was an outsider who saw Bruce Grobbelaar, signed in 1981 to secure the place of Clemens’ side in the league, return to his former scorecards.
The Tottenham Hotspur No1 didn’t have to wait long for another celebration as part of the team that won the FA Cup in ten days and won a second battle against Queen’s Park Rangers at Wembley.
The title escaped the penalty kick, but the glory was even greater when they won the 1983-84 UEFA Cup on penalty kicks against Anderlecht. Clemens was on the bench after an injury when Tony Parks saved White Hart Lane’s penalty shootout.
Clemens scored a goal in the dramatic final of the AFA Cup in 1987, in which the sports lost 3-2 to Coventry City, followed by an Achilles tendon injury in Norwich City in the same year, ending his career.
Usually he was rightly regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world, but his career in England, which began during the World Cup Qualifying Tournament against Wales in November 1972, went hand in hand with that of Shilton, a contemporary of the same calibre.
It also coincided with the fact that England did not qualify for the next world championships in 1974 and 1978. When Greenwood’s manager arrived at the 1982 World Championship, after years of indecision, he finally had to make a decision – he even took turns taking part in the 1980 European Championship in Italy – he failed at the Shilton and left Clemens as an unused replacement.
His last international performance took place in November 1983 at the age of 35 in Luxembourg. In May 1981, he led England in a friendly match against Brazil, the first goalkeeper to lead his country since Frank Swift in the 1940s.
After his retirement, Clemens spent several years in the Spur coaching staff, where he worked in the first team with his former Liverpool teammate Doug Livermore and also as a manager at Barnett.
In the last years of his career he was a well-known, popular and influential figure in the English national team, both as coach and specialist goalkeeper coach, for several years under managers Glenn Hoddl, Kevin Keegan, Sven-Goran Ericsson, Steve McClaren, Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson.
Clemens, who received the Order of the British Empire in 1987 for his services to players, enjoyed great respect among English managers and players for his knowledge and quiet advice and for his own star career, and retired in 2013.
He will be remembered as one of the most important figures in the history of the Liverpool football club, as well as his long career, in which he also played and worked with great success with the Spurs and England.