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Sad news; manager mourns the loss of ‘superstar’ dad

“It’s the one regret I have,” says Stephen Clemence, manager of Gillingham and son of legendary Liverpool, Tottenham and England goalkeeper Ray.


“My father wanted to see me become a manager after seeing me play in the Premier League. ‘I’ll do it when the time is right,’ I used to tell him.”

The 45-year-old former Birmingham and Tottenham midfielder was appointed head coach by Gillingham on November 1st, marking his first managerial position.

Ray, who led Liverpool to five league wins and three European Cups from 1967 to 1981, passed away from prostate cancer three years prior at the age of 72.

“In the last few weeks of dad’s life he asked me again ‘you are going to give management a go, aren’t you?’,” Stephen told the BBC.

“He’d say ‘make sure you do, you’re more than capable’.”

In the FA Cup third round on Saturday, Gillingham will try to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the weekend when the League Two team hosts the bottom-of-the-league Sheffield United (15:00 GMT kick-off).

“There have been moments while I’ve been here at Gillingham and moments in my personal life when I would have loved to talk to dad,” says Stephen.

“He was always a terrific advisor. He would tell me that Sheffield United is under a lot of pressure if he were still here. Give it your best shot and go.”

“A father and a superstar”

Before leaving to pursue greater success at Tottenham, Ray Clemence was a vital member of legendary Liverpool teams coached by Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley in the 1970s and early 1980s that destroyed everyone in their path both domestically and internationally.

A short distance from Liverpool’s Anfield stadium, on the corner of Wylva Road, is a house that honors him for his legendary reputation with the Reds.

A quotation from Reds manager Shankly appears next to a painting of the goalie, grinning and raising his arms in the air: “Ray had everything.” Because of his speed, he is unwilling to lose. He’s simply an excellent goalie.”

When Stephen’s father joined Tottenham in 1981 at the age of three, it was after 14 years at Anfield.

Growing up, he enjoyed watching his dad play sports and recalls being on the field prior to the 1987 FA Cup final at Wembley, which featured highly anticipated Spurs and Coventry.

He remembers, “Dad was desperate to win.”

He had already won two FA Cups by that point, one in 1974 with Liverpool and another in 1982 with Tottenham. In order to give my two sisters, Sarah and Julie, and myself a winners’ medal each to cherish for the rest of our lives, dad desired to win it a third time.”

It was not meant to be.

Coventry prevailed 3-2 in one of the most thrilling finals in the competition’s history.

“He was a superstar on the pitch because of the things he won,” says Stephen.

“But to me he was dad, the leader of our family.”

“He is missed daily.”

Ray, who was awarded 61 caps for England, died in his home in November 2020, surrounded by his loved ones.

He spent fifteen years battling prostate cancer while also spreading awareness of the condition.

Stephen was a member of Steve Bruce’s coaching staff at Newcastle when his father passed away. “I remember one Christmas he had a tumour removed from his brain after the cancer had started to spread,” says Stephen.

“Despite taking chemotherapy tablets in his final years, he never complained. He genuinely loved his ten grandchildren, and he made an effort to be as positive as he could for them.

“He spent the final month of his life at the family home, where a hospital bed had been brought in.

“I loved Steve Bruce. I took a leave of absence from Newcastle to take care of my father and assist my mother.

“It was unpleasant to witness, but we did our best to maintain a positive attitude for as long as possible.

Our family is quite tight, so it was difficult for us all to watch him suffer, yet he never voiced any complaints. I’ve never known a stronger man than he was.

“As a family, we miss him every single day.”

Men are being urged by Stephen to be screened for prostate cancer.

In the UK, one in eight men suffer from prostate cancer, according to Prostate Cancer UK. While prostate cancer is not always fatal, when it is, there is a greater chance of recovery the sooner it is detected.

Stephen continues, “I’ve been checked myself a few times. “Your chances of contracting it are increased if it runs in your family. It kills silently.

“For a considerable amount of time, men with prostate cancer may be unaware that they have the disease. Your chances of surviving yourself are higher the earlier you receive a diagnosis.”

“Hopefully, he’s observing from upstairs.”

Stephen has managed Gillingham, who are 10th in League Two and one point off of a play-off spot, for 13 games as of Saturday’s cup match.

A 2-0 victory over League One Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup’s second round is one of the highlights thus far.

Stephen, a midfielder for Birmingham City and Tottenham in the Premier League, continues, “I wasn’t thinking about management when I was playing.”

“I took great pride in my playing career. Dad used to say he was glad I didn’t play goal because he thought it would have been difficult to live up to the comparison.

“Unfortunately, an injury at the age of 32 ended my playing career.

“This [his son leading Gillingham as head coach] would have pleased him.” Every week, he would have come here, adorned with a Gillingham scarf.

“I hope he is watching from upstairs.”

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