Tributes paid to former deckchair attendant in Skegness who became football legend dies aged 72

Tributes have been paid to a much-loved former Skegness deckchair attendant who became a football legend.

Football legend Ray Clemence has sadly died aged 72.
Football legend Ray Clemence has sadly died aged 72.

Ray Clemence died on Sunday aged 72 after a brave battle with prostate cancer. Since the diagnosis in 2005 he also had treatment for a brain tumour.

In a statement, the Clemence family said he "passed away peacefully today surrounded by his loving family".

Born in Skegness on August 5, 1948, a nine-year-old Clemence started as a centre-forward, but was a defender in his early teens before, one day, Lumley Secondary Modern’s school team found themselves short of a keeper.

The 2002 summer soccer group in Skegness is pictured with Ray Clemence a(back right) and the then ELDC vice-chairman Coun Brian Burnett, plus Al the Alligator, as they re-launch the Key Card sports scheme throughout the Active Leisure centres in East Lindsey.

“I couldn’t play anywhere else. I never wanted to be a goalkeeper. The sports master nominated me to go into goal. When I went into goal it was just natural for me to do,” said Clemence, who is survived by wife Veronica, son Stephen – a former player and now a coach – and daughters Sarah and Julie.

After being rejected as a schoolboy by Notts County, he arrived at Scunthorpe as a 17-year-old in 1965 but in his fourth game as a professional let in seven against local rivals Grimsby.

Nevertheless, within two years he had attracted the interest of Liverpool, a club about to embark on one of the greatest spells of success in the history of the game.

During his 23-year career, he played more than 1,100 games for Scunthorpe, Liverpool, Tottenham.

Ray Clemence. Photo Getty Images

His last appearance for Scunthorpe in 1967, though, saw them lose 3-0 to Doncaster, with Shankly present to see Clemence be at fault for two of the goals.

“I remember telling my parents my big chance had just gone straight out the window,” Clemence recalled. “That summer, because I was still on only £11 a week, I took a job on the deckchairs at Skegness beach.”

A few weeks later, while at his summer job, he spotted a man running towards him.

“My mum had phoned the council to send someone to find me. She’d had a call from the club to say Scunthorpe had agreed a fee with Liverpool and it was up to me if I wanted to go.

Stuart Allison, former head of sports at Skegness Grammar School (third left at the back) showed Ray Clemence and Coun Burnett around the sports campus in 2002 and explained plans for the future.

“My life changed at that moment, as I’m standing there stacking deckchairs.”

The only thing he would stack up after that were trophies and accolades.

After serving his apprenticeship in the Central League, he took over from Tommy Lawrence on a permanent basis during the 1969-70 season, despite being assured by Shankly when he signed that Lawrence was “over the hill and past his best”.

But it was worth the wait as Clemence won every major honour in the game bar the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 665 appearances before, surprisingly, announcing at the age of 32 that he needed a new challenge to prolong his career.

Daniel Helliwell (14) happened to be at the Grammar School in 2002 taking a summer school biology lesson when Ray Clemence arrived and he got Ray to autograph his soccer shirt. Daniel was an avid Liverpool supporter and played centre back at school and Ray Clemence enjoyed his greatest soccer successes while at Liverpool.

He moved to Tottenham in 1981 and did just that, playing for a further seven years and making 330 appearances for the north London club.

He helped them win the FA Cup in 1982 and the UEFA Cup two years later, although he was a spectator for their final victory over Anderlecht as stand-in Tony Parks proved Spurs’ penalty shoot-out hero.

Clemence hung up his gloves for good in 1988 and joined the Tottenham coaching staff.

He also had a spell in charge of Barnet before, in 1996, joining the England coaching team under Glenn Hoddle. He remained part of the backroom staff until his retirement in 2013.

As a former England international, he conceded just 16 goals in the 42-match 1978-79 season.

Clemence’s battle with Shilton for the England number one shirt was a cause of some frustration, with the pair rotated for more than a decade. Clemence made his debut in 1972 and won his final cap in 1983.

Ray Clemence. Photo Getty Images

His biggest disappointment was missing out on a place in the starting line-up in the 1982 World Cup, effectively as a result of Tottenham’s FA Cup final replay with QPR which prevented him featuring in two pre-tournament friendlies.

He rated his save from Borussia Monchengladbach’s Uli Stielike in the 1977 European Cup final with the score at 1-1 as his most important.

However, the goal he is most associated with was Scotland’s second in their 2-1 victory at Hampden Park in 1976 when Liverpool team-mate Kenny Dalglish steered it between his legs.

“Gordon Banks is remembered for his save against Pele and I’m remembered for that,” he said ruefully.

Skegness photographer Ben Hardaker remembers Ray as a classmate at the old Lumley school. He told the Standard: "Ray never forgot his roots and was a load of fun at school.

"Whenever I photographed him on his visits to Skegness he would always spot me straight away and shout Ben, striding over to me to shake my hand - he had a grip like a vice!"

Ben particularly remembers a visit Ray made to the old Earl of Scarbrough school. in 2002.

"He was helping to re-launch the East Lindsey Key Card sports centre scheme that operates in their Active Leisure Centres around the district," said Ben.

"While he was at the Earl of Scarbrough Sports Centre he met some up and coming youngsters taking the summer break course there and answered their questions on

what it is like to be the England goalkeeper.

"Afterwards Ray toured the Grammar School Sports College and chatted to children taking part in the Action for Young Carers soccer coaching session.

"This group were made up of children who care for brothers, sisters or parents and need a break away from the normal routine."

Among the many tributes paid to Ray was one from former England keeper Peter Shilton wrote on Twitter: "I'm absolutely devastated to be told of the sad news that Ray Clemence has just passed away. We were rivals but good friends.

"Ray was a brilliant goalkeeper with a terrific sense of humour. I will miss him a great deal as we've kept friends long after retiring. RIP my friend."

Another Liverpool great Sir Kenny Dalglish added: "Today we have lost a true legend. Clem was a fantastic team-mate and great to be around. I will never forget how he helped me to settle in at Anfield.

"Our thoughts are with the Clemence family. RIP Clem."

Mayor of Skegness, Coun Mark Dannatt, said a one minute's silence would be held at the start of the next full council meeting in honour of Ray. He said: "I would like to take this time on behalf of myself the Skegness residents to send our condolences to Ray’s family and close friends.

"We are saddened to hear this news because he will always be a legend here and one of the greatest goalkeepers of his time.

"He was an inspiration to a lot of pupils and teachers at the Lumley school in Skegness and will remain in a lot of people's hearts forever."

Many tributes were also paid on the article published on the Skegness Standard website announcing Ray's death - including calls for a commemorative statue to be placed in the town.

Ian Horner recalled: "My dad played against him when he left Skegness.

"My dad was the goalkeeper at Skegness and then played a bit for Spartans.

"Ray was playing on the wing for the Skegness and the coach said he was a big lad, so try it in goal and the rest is history."

Margaret Mott commented: "A lifelong friend - he was a legend one in a million."

Julia Seaton: "I'm not a football fan but I would like to see a statue of him in Skegness."

And Michael Soulby added: "Brilliant idea. Skegness should be proud of him. One of England’s finest keepers."