Patrick “Pat” Anthony Jennings OBE (born 12 June 1945 in Newry, County Down) is a Northern Irish former football player. Pat Jennings played 119 games for Northern Ireland as a goalkeeper, a figure which at the time was a world record and is still a Northern Ireland record, in an international career which lasted for over 22 years. During his career Jennings played in over 1,000 top level games, and even managed to score a goal in the 1967 Charity Shield match. Many consider Pat Jennings to be the greatest goalkeeper the game has ever seen.
After playing for Shamrock Rovers’ under-18 side at the age of 11, Pat Jennings concentrated on Gaelic football until he was sixteen years old, when he made his soccer comeback with his hometown side Newry Town. After impressing with the team he moved to English Third Division side Watford in May 1963. Jennings again impressed in his first season in England, playing every league game for his club, and was signed by Tottenham Hotspur for £27,000 at the end of it.
Pat Jennings spent thirteen years at White Hart Lane, where he played in 472 league games for Spurs, and 591 in all competitions. He won the FA Cup in 1967, the League Cup in 1971 and 1973, and the UEFA Cup in 1972. He also scored once, in the 1967 Charity Shield, from his own area, kicking the ball from his hands and sending a large punt down the field that bounced over Manchester United goalkeeper Alex Stepney and into the net. In 1973 the Football Writers’ Association named him as its footballer of the year, three years later he won PFA’s version of the award.
In August 1977, he was transferred to Tottenham’s arch-rivals, Arsenal, with Tottenham thinking he was nearing the end of his career. However, Jennings saw off rivals for the goalkeeper’s jersey to play for Arsenal for another eight years. Whilst at Highbury, he helped Arsenal to three successive FA Cup finals, in 1978, 1979, and 1980. However, Arsenal only managed to win the second of these finals, a 3-2 victory against Manchester United. In total, Jennings made 327 appearances for Arsenal, 237 of them in the League, between 1977 and his eventual retirement from first-team club football in 1985.
Pat Jennings became the first player in English football to make 1,000 senior appearances when he turned out for Arsenal against West Bromwich Albion in February, 1983. He marked the occasion by keeping a clean sheet.
After his retirement, Pat Jennings returned to Tottenham Hotspur, playing in their reserve side to maintain his match sharpness for Northern Ireland’s 1986 World Cup campaign. He was also briefly on Everton’s books, having been signed as goalkeeping cover for the 1986 FA Cup Final against Liverpool, Neville Southall having been injured playing for Wales. He also guested for Shamrock Rovers in a testimonial for Shay Brennan shortly after the World Cup in 1986.
Jennings made his Northern Ireland debut as an eighteen year old, whilst playing for Watford. This game was on the 15th of April 1964, and was a British Home Championship match against Wales, Northern Ireland won the game 3-2; George Best made his international debut in the same game. Jennings played his final international game on his 41st birthday, making him at the time the World Cup’s oldest ever participant. Only Roger Milla of Cameroon was older at 42 in 1994. This game was Northern Ireland’s final group game in the 1986 World Cup, and was against Brazil, Brazil won the game 3-0.
This was Jennings’s second World Cup, he had previously played in the 1982 World Cup. Pat Jennings still holds the world record of participations in different World Cups (including qualifying stages), six in total – 1966, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986. However, this record of six participations has now been equaled by Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy, both of Trinidad and Tobago.
Following his retirement Jennings has worked as a goalkeeping coach. He has worked at Tottenham in this capacity since 1993. In 2003 Jennings was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of the skills he demonstrated in the English league.
He is still associated with Tottenham Hotspur and hosts Corporate Hospitality fans in the Pat Jennings Lounge at White Hart Lane, as well as being the goalkeeping consultant for the club.