I am sure you all know or have read about the passing of one of football’s greats and true gents, Ray Clemence MBE.
Ray spent 18 months at our club, and instantly his charm and friendliness warmed Underhill. He has legendary status at both Liverpool and Tottenham and was adored at Barnet too.
Ray arrived at Barnet in January 1994 thanks to chairman David Buchler, to assist then player-coach, Gary Phillips. Gary, along with acting Chairman Ricky George had performed miracles the previous summer and during the tough season with all its administrative turmoil which saw the club eventually relegated from Division 2. The club and fans were rejoicing on the performance at Chelsea in the FA Cup and initially, the general feeling among us was that Gary was being stepped over, as Ray naturally became the focal point, at least from the press angle.
By the following August Ray was given the managers reins and Ray used his extensive contacts and knowledge to sign up some outstanding talent – many now in Barnet FC folklore. Linvoy Primus, Lee Hodges, Maik Taylor, Sean Devine and of course Dougie Freedman.
These new players, and Ray’s style, pulled us out of the doldrums, and fast, attractive football with lots of goals returned to Underhill. Freedman was Ray’s finest hour with Barnet, and the League Cup 1st leg tie with Manchester City and Dougies first minute goal was one of the most exciting nights, certainly of my 50 odd years supporting the club – Dougie also became his son-in-law!
Ray was born in Skegness in 1948, and his youth career was with Notts County. He joined Liverpool via Scunthorpe United in 1968 as back up to Tommy Lawrence. He made 665 appearances while at Anfield, winning the League 5 times, the European Cup 3 times plus the UEFA Cup twice, amongst other domestic trophies. He joined Spurs in 1981 where he won another UEFA Cup and an FA Cup winners medal during his 330 appearances. He also won 61 England caps, which, as one of the most well-known quotes in football goes; it would have been another 100 if it were not for Peter Shilton!
The feeling and tributes on our message board all seem to mention the fact that Ray was a very approachable, lovely man who only left us in August 1996 as his friend Glen Hoddle asked him to become the coach of the goalkeepers for the national team. How could he possibly turn that down?
I will reveal he told a rather fortunate bunch of fans in the social club, who had gathered around him, that even though his wages were about to become considerably more than a lower league manager, the money was not the object, it was the prestige and pride he would have, and he did not wish to leave Barnet, but he had no professional choice. I believed him; he was genuinely sorry to have to move on.
Ray had been diagnosed with prostate cancer as far back as 2005, and had battled it with the bravery he had shown as a goalkeeper, and according to his friend Ricky George, “Ray kept coming back after treatment looking better than ever, time and time again. His old Spurs buddies were amazed at how fit he looked.” He passed away peacefully on 15th November; he was 72.