When footballers lived around the corner

I was brought up in Halsbury Road, Kensington Liverpool 6 and went to St Sebastian’s School in Lockerby Road Fairfield.  When I was 8/9 I remember the excitement in the school when a tall thin shy young man clutching a pair of goalkeepers gloves came to speak to us at assembly. He was Ray Clemence and he lived in Fairfield, round the corner from the school at the time. There was perhaps not the excitement there would have been a few years later when Ray broke into the Liverpool first team, but he was introduced as ‘Liverpool’s new goalie’.  From what I can remember he said a few words and then handed round his gloves.  I had mixed feelings, I was an Evertonian having been taken to Goodison when I was five. My only goalkeeping hero was Gordon West. The Catholic school was mostly Evertonians as in those days there was still the remnants of a sectarian divide. In fact in Halsbury Road between Kensington and Molyneux Road I can only ever remember one family who were LFC fans.

I was of course very saddened to hear about Ray’s passing after a long fight against Prostate Cancer. I think he was certainly one of the best goalkeepers the world has ever seen. The sight of him running out to command his goal at the start of the match, said you had to beat the best. He always seemed to be totally in charge and to always be encouraging the team in front of him. Of course he would go on to win multiple trophies with Liverpool. At the time they were unbeatable in every competition. Ray was a true leader.

I met Ray again about 15 years ago. We were doing close protection at a hotel in Haydock. He was there with Spurs and I could see him marshalling the team at the reception – still taking charge. When he came down for a coffee I managed to have a chat, prefaced by what us Evertonians tend to do when speaking to Liverpool players

“Hi Ray – I’m an Evertonian but…”

We managed to chat for 15 minutes and I mentioned about him coming to St Sebastian’s. He remembered living in Fairfield and told me I’d brought back a lot of memories.