In 2001 a poll conducted by Total Football placed the former Liverpool and England shot-stopper on top spot, beating the likes of Pat Jennings, Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton. His natural athleticism and agility combined with his shot-stopping prowess made him one of the best of his generation and when he was at the top of his game, there truly was no one better, such as when he made save after save to earn England a goalless draw in Rio in 1977.
Born in Skegness, Big Clem started out at his home club where he made up the short-fall in his earnings by working as a deck chair attendant in the summer. After a trial with Notts County, he joined Scunthorpe United where he was spotted by Bill Shankly. Shankly knew a bargain when he saw one and paid £18,000 to take him to Liverpool. After a couple of years in the reserves, he displaced Tommy Lawrence as first choice keeper in 1970 and went on to play 665 first team games for the Reds, keeping an incredible 335 clean sheets along the way.
At club level, he won everything there was to win including three European Cups, five League Championships, two UEFA Cups and two FA Cups and he ended up with a haul of 13 domestic medals, becoming one of the country's most decorated players in the process. His international career, however, was less auspicious.
While Clemence was winning everything with Liverpool in Europe, England were having a woeful time of it on the international stage. They failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup Finals in dramatic fashion then didn't even get a chance to turn up at the 1978 Finals after an horrendous start to their qualifying campaign. Clemence is still held in very high regard by the Anfield faithful and was voted in at No.11 on the Official Liverpool Football Club web site poll 100 Players Who Shook The Kop, he was also the highest placed goalkeeper.
However, despite having to compete with the likes of Peter Shilton and Joe Corrigan, Clemence won 61 England caps in total and was the first goalkeeper to captain his country since Frank Swift. Yet he never really achieved much beyond that. Although he went to Spain for the World Cup in 1982, he was no longer first choice and watched the action from the bench. He had better luck in the 1980 European Championships but England once again failed to rise to the occasion and went out in the opening group stages.
Clemence may finally be remembered as the man who deprived Peter Shilton of another few dozen caps, which is unfair but perhaps not completely so. He could have gone to Mexico in 1986, but prematurely decided to retire from the England scene when Bobby Robson took over - a decision that seems even more hasty now in light of Shilton's subsequent achievements and the fact he played in the FA Cup Final a year later with Tottenham Hotspur. But Clem was never ready to be second best, a trait he shared with his rival for all those years and one to be respected.
He retired in 1988 and joined the coaching staff at Spurs, working his way through to the first team, before leaving to become joint manager of Barnet (with fellow goalkeeper Gary 'sumo' Phillips) in January 1994. At the start of the 1994–95 season, Ray took sole charge leading Barnet to 9th and 13th in Division 3. In August 1996 he was recruited by his former Spurs and England team-mate Glenn Hoddle as goalkeeping coach for the England team, a position he continued to hold under Hoddle's successors Kevin Keegan and Sven-Göran Eriksson. He remained in that position under Steve McClaren until he was ousted by Italian Franco Tancredi as goalkeeping coach in December 2007 as Fabio Capello took charge of the national team. Although Ray still remains part of the England backroom staff.
Clemence was awarded an MBE for services to football. His son, Stephen, is a midfield player who came through the ranks at Spurs and Birmingham City and now plays for Leicester City, whilst his daughter Sarah also has footballing connections, being the wife of Crystal Palace striker Dougie Freedman.
On February 2, 2005 Clemence announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and that he would spend time away from the England squad whilst he receives treatment.