Statue unveiled of 'very special' Northern Ireland goalkeeping legend Pat Jennings

Statue unveiled of 'very special' Northern Ireland goalkeeping legend Pat Jennings

A STATUE has been unveiled of goalkeeping legend Pat Jennings in his hometown of Newry.

Jennings, who played for London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, was on hand to unveil the sculpture despite a health scare earlier this week.

Former club and international teammates attended the event, including Liam Brady, Gerry Armstrong and Billy Hamilton.

"He's a very special person to me," said former Ireland international Brady, who played alongside Jennings at Arsenal.

The bronze statue, organised by the Friends of Big Pat organisation, was unveiled at Kildare Street in Newry at midday on Wednesday.

Depicting the two-time FA Cup winner throwing out the ball, it was created by renowned sculptor Andy Edwards.

'Best in the world'

Speaking at the unveiling, 78-year-old Jennings said he found it hard to believe he was being honoured.

"I've watched other people get statues unveiled of them and never thought it would ever happen to me," he said.

"Having said that, I've had an unbelievable career in football, from leaving here as a 17-year-old to join Watford.

Jennings and his wife Eleanor Toner at the unveiling (Image: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

"I never dreamt that I'd be back over 60 years later to unveil a statue."

He quipped: "It definitely looks like me!"

As well as a glorious football career, Jennings has also raised more than £2m for charity.

He was awarded a CBE in the 2023 New year's Honours List, having previously received an MBE and OBE.

Brady, who played alongside Jennings for three years at Highbury, said it was only a matter of time before his friend received a knighthood.

"He's a very special person to me, he's been a great friend down through the years," said the former Ireland international.

"He was probably the best goalkeeper in the world at one time, without any doubt.

Jennings and former Arsenal teammate Liam Brady (Image: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

"When he left Tottenham he came to Arsenal, so I wanted to be here today to tell everybody that he's an Arsenal player as well as Spurs!

"He's just unique because he's loved by both Tottenham and Arsenal supporters and I think he's the only one in the world who can say that."

He added: "Above all, he's a very special person and with what he's done for charity, I totally agree that he should be knighted."

'Unified the country'

Gerry Armstrong, who played alongside Jennings for Spurs and Northern Ireland, said the keeper succeeded where politicians had failed.

"I've always said he's our greatest ambassador, we're proud of him so much," he said.

"In 1982, when that team went over to play in the World Cup, Pat was the one world-class star we had.

Firmer Spurs player and current club ambassador Ledley King with Jennings at today's event (Image: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

"We unified the country which is something the politicians couldn't do, we unified the country after we beat Spain and we had a fantastic journey

"A lot of that is down to Big Pat, he was just superb."

Also in attendance was former Spurs star and club ambassador Ledley King, who described his friend as 'a gentleman, an icon and a legend of the football club'.

The event was rounded off by musician Tommy Sands, who performed a song he had written about his friend to mark the occasion.

Stellar career

In 1963, at the age of 17, Jennings moved from his hometown club Newry Town to Watford, then in England's Third Division.

An ever-present for the Hornets in the league during his debut season, Jennings caught the eye of Spurs, joining the North London side in 1964.

He made 590 appearances for the club over the next 13 years, winning the FA Cup, two League Cups and the UEFA Cup.

He also won the Charity Shield in 1967, Spurs sharing it jointly with Manchester United after a 3-3 draw in which Jennings famously scored a goal from his own area.

Jennings up against Michel Platini of France at the 1982 World Cup in Spain (Image: STF/AFP via Getty Images)

In 1977, at the age of 32, he moved to Spurs' bitter rivals Arsenal, going on to make 327 appearances over the next eight years.

He helped them reach three consecutive FA Cup Finals, winning the trophy in 1979.

Jennings made his Northern Ireland debut in 1964 alongside George Best, and went on to win 119 caps for his country, a record that stood until 2020.

In the 1982 World Cup, he conceded just one goal in their three games of the opening group stage as Northern Ireland topped the group.

It included a clean sheet in a famous 1-0 against holders Spain in a game that saw Northern Ireland reduced to 10 men.