Belfast Telegraph

Our greatest sports star: Pat Jennings was number one

To celebrate the 20th Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, sponsored by Linwoods, and taking place on January 26, 2015, we want YOU to decide Northern Ireland’s greatest sports star ever. In alphabetical order, and continuing daily, Steven Beacom assesses the 20 legends shortlisted by a judging panel. Voting details below

Pat Jennings played a remarkable 119 internationals as goalkeeper for Northern Ireland.

That figure was once a world record... fitting really because when 'big Pat' was at his peak he was the greatest goalkeeper on the planet - the number one in every sense.

His international career spanned over 22 years, during which time Jennings made more saves than he would care to remember.

Northern Ireland fans love recalling them though as the Newry man played a massive role in helping the country qualify for the World Cup finals in 1982 and 1986.

Pat had effectively retired from club football in 1985 but he was still good enough to feature for Northern Ireland in the 1986 World Cup. He actually won his final cap during the finals in Mexico, against Brazil on his 41st birthday. At the time he was the oldest ever participant in the competition.

Jennings, now 69, played in SIX World Cup qualifying campaigns between 1966 and 1986, a staggering feat and made his international bow as an 18-year-old against Wales in 1964, the same night a certain George Best also won his first cap.

Like at international level, at club level Pat was a huge hero and remains to this day one of the few players loved and respected by both Arsenal and Tottenham supporters, winning the FA Cup with both north London teams.

Jennings made over 1,000 appearances in his wonderful career and even managed to score in the 1967 FA Charity Shield for Tottenham against Manchester United.

Renowned for his big hands, Pat was never afraid to use his feet to keep the ball out of the net and was always a calming influence on team-mates. He truly was a world class goalkeeper.

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