Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Football Heroes No. 1 - Pat Jennings

What a goalie. I used to hate it when people argued about who was the best between Shilton and Clemence - who cares, Pat Jennings was better than both of them. When I was a kid my dad played cricket for Presteigne and one of the players, Billy Toot, used to called me Jennings - he still does. I still love the association. I had many Tottenham heroes in those days, Chivers, Perryman and Jennings being the top three, and every time I hear their name or catch a glimpse of them on tele or in a book I get a lump in my throat - sad I know, but what can you do?

Jennings was so 70's with his long hair and those massive sideburns, and amazingly he's still got it all today. As he keeper he was legendary for having huge hands but made the art of saving with his legs an art form. Can you remember the car parts advert he did in the 70's, ah, happy days. He saved two penalties in a game at Anfield and scored froma long goal kick against Man Utd in the Charity Shield. As well as being a legend on the field, he was a quiet, kind man off it. Despite that last sentence, I saw him kick a fan once. I went to see Spurs and Chelsea in April 1975 with my dad, Gerald Brown and my cousin Dale Tomkins. Both sides needed a win to help stave off relegation and thanks to Alfie Conn and Steve Perryman we got it. Before the game crowd trouble had kicked off big style with the game delayed for nearly an hour and even when the players finally came out there was still a few fans on the pitch. One Chelsea fan, complete with flowing locks and scarf around the wrist decided to have a kick at Jennings who chased after him and volleyed him straight up the Arsenal. The fan lay there for ages, trying to remove one of PJ's size 12 Gola's.
Hunter Davies interviewed a Leeds Utd scout for his brilliant book, Glory Game, and the guy had compiled a dossier of all the Spurs players weaknesses. About Jennings all the scout could say was, "I take my bloody hat off to him. Every time I've seen him he's been magnificent". Mind you the Leeds scout was probably comparing him to Gary Sprake.

I've got Big Pat's autograph here on the wall and there's a bit of a bizarre story behind it. In the 70's I read in Shoot magazine that Jennings was one of the best footballers for answering fan mail, so I wrote to him at Spurs to get his autograph. Over the coming months my hounding of the postman subsided as it became obvious that Big Pat had better things to do, like trying to keep Spurs in the First Division. Anyway, about twenty years later there was an article in one of the tabloids about a postman in London who'd been sacked after the Post Office had discovered that for years he'd been stashing undelivered post in his house. About a week later a letter from Tottenham Hotspur Football Club arrives at my mum and dad's house with a signed photo from Pat Jennings!

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