By Tony Attwood
Before Pat Jennings we had John Rimmer who was signed by Bertie Mee, and before him Bob Wilson, backed by Geoff Barnett.
Pat’s story starts amazingly – apparently he played for the under 18 team of Sharock Rovers while aged 11, and then moved across to Gaelic football.
But of course he eventually returned to football, and played with Newry Town before moving to Watford in the third division in 1963. He played for them 48 times – including a complete league season, and also playing for Northern Ireland -(playing his first game for N Ireland aged 18). Tottenham H bought him for £27,000 after one season at Watford.
Pat played for Tottenham for 13 years, playing 591 competitions, winning the FA Cup, two league cups and a UEFA Cup. He famously scored in the 1967 Charity Sheild kicking the ball from his own area into the Man U area. It bounced over Stepney. I remember seeing it on TV, and watching how Pat simply didn’t react. He almost looked embarrassed.
He won the Football Writers and the PFA footballer of the year awards on different occasions. And then amazingly…
In August 1977, he came to Arsenal. The reason was, I believe, Tottenham thought it was time for a new younger man in goal – Pat was 32 at the time, and this was the era before older keepers were the norm. And maybe Arsenal thought at first he was going to be a backup – but true to style he came into the first team and played every league match, FA Cup and League cup match that season – 55 in total.
He played in the three successive FA Cup finals, (1978, 1979, and 1980) and so is I think the only man who has won the FA Cup with ourselves and Tottenham.
He retired in 1985 having become the first player ever in the English game to play over 1000 senior matches. His last match was away to West Ham on December 5 1981. He was replaced by George Wood.
Pat then returned to Tottenham H playing for their reserves in preparation for Northern Ireland’s 1986 World Cup campaign and played his last international aged 41 – apparently the World Cup’s oldest ever participant.
He then became a goalkeeping coach at Tottenham and continues his Tottenham, rather than Arsenal connection, as a corporate host in the Pat Jennings Lounge at White Hart Lane. He may well however have at least seen Arsenal win the League while there.