On February 26, 1983, Northern Irish footballer Pat Jennings becomes the first player in English football to make 1,000 senior appearances, celebrating this milestone with a clean sheet in a goalless league draw for Arsenal at West Bromwich Albion.
Jennings is born in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland on June 12, 1945. After playing for Shamrock Rovers‘ under-18 side at the age of 11, he concentrates on Gaelic football until he is sixteen years old, when he makes his soccer comeback with his hometown side Newry Town. After impressing with the team he moves to English Third Division side Watford in May 1963. He again impresses in his first season in England, playing every league game for his club. He makes his international debut with the Northern Ireland national football team at the age of eighteen while playing for Watford. This game, on April 15, 1964, is a British Home Championship match against Wales, with Northern Ireland winning the game 3–2. George Best makes his international debut in the same game. Jennings is signed by Tottenham Hotspur for £27,000 in June 1964.
Jennings spends thirteen years at White Hart Lane, where he plays in 472 league games for Spurs, and 591 in all competitions. He wins the FA Cup in 1967, the League Cup in 1971 and 1973, and the UEFA Cup in 1972. In the 1967 Charity Shield he scores once from his own area, kicking the ball from his hands and sending a large punt down the field that bounces over Manchester United goalkeeper Alex Stepney and into the net. In 1973 the Football Writers’ Association names him as its footballer of the year. Three years later he wins Professional Footballers’ Association‘s version of the award, the first goalkeeper to receive this accolade, and to this date remains only one of two, along with Peter Shilton.
In August 1977, he is transferred to Tottenham’s arch-rivals, Arsenal, with Tottenham thinking he is nearing the end of his career. However, he sees off rivals for the goalkeeper’s jersey to play for Arsenal for another eight years. While at Highbury, he helps Arsenal to four Cup finals in three successive years, the FA Cup final in 1978, 1979, and 1980, as well as the European Cup Winners’ Cup final that year. However, Arsenal only manages to win the second of these finals, a 3–2 victory against Manchester United. In total, he makes 327 appearances for Arsenal, 237 of them in the League, between 1977 and his eventual retirement from first-team club football in 1985.
Despite his retirement from club football in 1985, Jennings returns to Tottenham Hotspur, playing mostly in their reserve side to maintain his match sharpness for Northern Ireland’s 1986 FIFA World Cup campaign. He plays his final international game at the 1986 World Cup, on his 41st birthday, making him at the time the World Cup’s oldest-ever participant. The match is Northern Ireland’s final group game, a 3–0 defeat against Brazil. In total, he participates in the qualifying stages of six World Cups between 1966 and 1986.
Jennings final appearance for Tottenham is in the Football League Super Cup against Liverpool in January 1986. He is 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.
Jennings works as a goalkeeping coach at Tottenham since 1993. In 2003 he is inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of the skills he demonstrated in the English league. He and his family have lived for many years in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, where his son attended The Broxbourne School along with the sons of fellow Spurs players Chris Hughton, Osvaldo Ardiles and Ray Clemence. He is still associated with the Spurs and hosts Corporate Hospitality fans in the Pat Jennings Lounges at White Hart Lane and Windsor Park, Belfast.