Ex-Liverpool and Spurs keeper Ray Clemence on Sunday’s showdown
BY THEIR own high standards, the last couple of years have been massively disappointing for Liverpool Football Club. The 18-times league champions finished a lowly seventh last campaign and currently sit ninth.
The Reds’ inconsistent form has been exacerbated by protracted and very public boardroom wranglings – making for some unpleasant viewing for one of the club’s favourite sons.
Ray Clemence made 665 appearances for Liverpool between 1967 and 1981, and the former England goalkeeper says he is saddened by the club’s fall from grace.
“The results over the last few seasons haven’t been up to scratch,” says Clemence. “To not be playing Champions League football is a big deal for a club like Liverpool. On top of the problems on the pitch, there have also been massive issues in the boardroom, which have been well documented.
“It’s unusual for Liverpool’s dirty laundry to be aired in public as it has been with the discontent surrounding Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Certainly it has been a messy and unfortunate situation for everyone connected to that great club.
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“I’m encouraged by what the new owners have to say, but then again Gillett and Hicks looked a positive proposition when they first arrived.
“Time is the crucial factor in all of this. They need time to settle and Roy Hodgson also needs the licence to turn things around on the pitch.”
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This Sunday Liverpool travel to Tottenham – another club close to Clemence’s heart. The 62-year-old spent seven seasons with Spurs, and he is the first to acknowledge the current contrast between the two clubs’ fortunes.
“It’s fantastic to see what has happened at White Hart Lane,” beams Clemence. “There’s certainly a very positive vibe around the club at the moment, which is more than can be said about Liverpool.
“Harry Redknapp has built arguably one of the best squads of players in the league and I can only see more good times ahead for Tottenham.
“In the Premier League these days, you look at the 11 players on the park, but you also judge a team on what is on their bench too. At any one time, Spurs are capable of fielding their strongest line-up and still have seven or so internationals waiting in the wings. That’s a very healthy situation.”
Clemence will have mixed loyalties this weekend, and the Football Association’s ‘Head of National Teams’ is loathe to give a scoreline prediction.
“Tottenham have obviously made the stronger start to the season and at White Hart Lane, you always fancy them to get a result,” he said.
“You should be careful not to write off Liverpool though. Any side with professionals like Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Jamie Carragher in the ranks are too strong to be kept down for long.
“I can see a draw on Sunday or Spurs just edging a tight game. Hopefully it will be a good watch.”
Rather than forecasting Sunday’s game, Clemence is far keener to discuss Tottenham’s Champions League prospects. He has high hopes for the club and thinks a run to the quarter or semi-finals might be possible.
“A big squad is key to success in Europe and that’s why I can see Spurs doing really well in the Champions League. I’m watching with interest to see what they do and I honestly think they can make it down to the last stages of the competition,” he said.
“In the future, I’d also like to think they might be capable of mounting a league challenge, though obviously that’s difficult with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City about.”
Clemence talks a good game and it is no surprise that he has remained involved in football since hanging up his boots, and gloves, in 1988.
He was joint first-team coach with Doug Livermore at Spurs during the 1992/93 season and also managed Barnet from 1994 to 1996 before becoming involved in the England set-up.
“I’m the head of national teams and my most visible role to the general public is working with the goalkeepers and assisting Fabio Capello on matchdays,” Clemence explains.
“But that’s just a small part of my job. A lot of my time is spent overlooking the performances of the development squads, aged 16 to 20. I communicate with the managers of those age groups, organise fixtures and oversee the scouting of potential talent.
“It’s a multi-faceted role, in that I get to work with the elite players but also see what talent is emerging in England too. That makes the job diverse, challenging but also greatly satisfying.”