Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Jennings’ fame makes him Northern Ireland's No. 1

Who is the greatest ever Northern Ireland player?

George Best is the name on the tip of most people’s tongue when the debate rages, but no-one gave more to the Northern Ireland cause than goalkeeper Pat Jennings.

At the Europa Hotel last night, Jennings was awarded a place in the Northern Ireland Football Writers’ Hall of Fame.

Former Linfield and Glentoran manager, Roy Coyle, was the first man to receive that honour last year and this time it was Big Pat who received the big honour.

Jennings is now 63 and his golden memories are an inspiration to any young player in love with the game.

The Newry-born legend is still Northern Ireland’s most capped player, after making 119 appearances.

Many who were privileged to see him foil the world’s best strikers said he was among the world’s greatest goalkeepers.

After making his international debut — along with George Best — against Wales on April 15,1964, Jennings played until his 41st birthday in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

He was at his inspirational best in helping Northern Ireland reach the second group stage of the World Cup in Spain in 1982.

Jennings has been working as a goalkeeping coach at his former club Tottenham since 1993 and to this day it is extraordinary to believe that he never received any formal coaching.

His career in England started at Watford, but he moved to Spurs in 1964 and he went on to win the FA Cup, two League Cups and the UEFA Cup.

In 1979 he joined Arsenal for £40,000 with whom he appeared in three more FA Cup finals and a Cup Winners’ Cup final.

A man famous for having a big heart as well as big hands, Pat is one of Northern Ireland’s soccer immortals.

The word legend is used too often in football, but Jennings deserves his place among the game’s greats.

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