12th April 2020 at 3:42 pm #96024
“Chelsea Football Club is hugely saddened to announce the passing today of one of our indisputably all-time great players, Peter Bonetti.”
One of Chelsea’s all time greats 729 appearances and a hero of the 1970 Cup Finals.
RIP Peter my thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family.12th April 2020 at 5:05 pm #96030MoosParticipant35 pts
As I said lots of people seem to be dying even not related to this virus, for me he was Chelsea’s best keeper maybe not the greatest cause he didn’t win as much but definitely the best.12th April 2020 at 6:44 pm #96032
Legend is far to often said about players but in this case without a doubt Peter Bonetti was and will always be a true Chelsea legend.14th April 2020 at 9:28 am #96090steveosnakeeyeParticipant260 pts14th April 2020 at 9:55 am #96095Chucky McChuckfaceParticipant514 pts
Sorry, but that did make me laugh, apologies to the dog!14th April 2020 at 9:57 am #9609714th April 2020 at 1:43 pm #96112
Nice tribute and worth a read.
“There is a cruel irony attached to the news that Peter ‘The Cat’ Bonetti, arguably Chelsea’s greatest ever goalkeeper, has passed away at the age 79, 50 years almost to the day that Chelsea began their Titanic struggle with Leeds United to win the FA Cup for the first time.
In many respects this was ‘The Cat’s’ finest four hours in the iconic green shirt with black neck, collar and cuffs. The shirt he wore for Chelsea for 729 appearances, second only to Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris in record number of appearances for the club.
Great goalkeepers make the difference; the difference between a win and a loss, a defeat or a cup win.
For those who were at Wembley on April 11, 1970 and at Old Trafford on April 29, 1970, there is no doubt that had it not been for Bonetti’s skill and agility, Chelsea would not have triumphed against Leeds United, the best team in England at the time and a side who revelled in the ‘dark arts’ of football.
Bonetti kept Chelsea in the cup in the first match which finished 2-2 after extra-time; described by Peter Batts of The Sun “countless other smoothly produced efforts were swallowed up by that Octopus of a goalkeeper Peter Bonetti” and Chelsea were described by Desmond Hackett in The People as a “team called Peter Bonetti” while “Bonetti – Man of Courage” grabbed the headlines.
He was even more heroic in the replay.
Early in the first-half, burly Leeds striker, Mick Jones clattered in to Bonetti and left him in a heap on the pitch. The match was held up for three minutes, but with no substitute goalkeepers allowed in those days, ‘The Cat’ had to battle on. Having injured his left knee, he received more treatment at half-time, gaining a pain killing injection for his troubles and if you re-watch the match, you can clearly see him limping for the rest of it, almost playing on one leg.
No matter, Chelsea finally won the cup for the first time as Bonetti kept Leeds out with a string of superb saves, although Mick Jones put Leeds ahead with a goal of which Bonetti said “ if not for the injury I would have saved the Leeds goal. I just could not spring up to it.” Had Jones not nobbled Bonetti, Chelsea might have won without the added burden of extra-time again!
For many young Chelsea fans at that time, Peter Bonetti became their hero that day and I have many friends who still count him as their first Chelsea hero. A cursory glance on social media will tell you they are bereft at the loss of ‘The Cat’, as one always is when a childhood hero dies; a little bit of you dies at the same time. Many may have adorned the replica kit of Peter Osgood with number nine on the back, but there were as many kids in the parks and gardens across the land wearing a green goalkeeper’s shirt with the black neck, collar and cuffs.
They may also have worn what appeared to be green gardening gloves. They were in fact, Peter Bonetti goalkeeping gloves, modelled on the garden variety, but felt to enhance ones’ ability to catch a football in slippery and wet conditions. Whether they worked for these young boys was moot, but at least they looked the part and could pretend to be ‘The Cat’ more convincingly. Bonetti was the first to brand his goalkeeping gloves and market them to the public.
Many non-Chelsea fans may remember Bonetti for a less happy time when England were surprisingly eliminated from the 1970 World Cup quarter-final by West Germany. Bonetti who understandably had been understudy to the peerless Gordan Banks was called upon unexpectedly and with an evening’s notice to play in England’s most important game for four years after Banks had been struck down by food poisoning.
England had been cruising at 2-0 when Franz Beckenbauer charged from midfield to fire a shot from outside the penalty area. It bounced on the way to Bonetti and inexplicably went under his body. Shortly after it was 2-2 as 5’ 7” Uwe Seeler managed to beat Alan Mullery in the air to loop the ball high over Bonetti in to the far corner of the goal. Arguably at fault for these goals, there was little Bonetti could do about the winner in extra-time from a Gerd Muller volley at point blank range.
In the cold light of day, Sir Alf Ramsey was perhaps at fault for taking off Bobby Charlton and Martin Peters (more of them later) to ‘save’ them for the semi-final. But one should feel sympathy for a goalkeeper who had not played in the heat of battle for nearly three months, having to step up to the biggest match of any footballer’s career with little preparation.
While England fans were quick to blame Chelsea’s star ‘keeper at least he had the warm bosom of his Chelsea family to return to. And what a return it was with Chelsea winning their second trophy in as many years by beating Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final; again, after extra-time and again with Bonetti making a crucial late save to keep Chelsea in the game.
What should have been a continuation of a world class goalkeeper’s career at Chelsea sadly hit the buffers as Chelsea’s cup-winning side began to break up amidst player unrest and the financial crisis caused by Chelsea’s over ambitious plans to re-develop Stamford Bridge.
During this time Bonetti showed another of his great character traits; that of loyalty. Many other players of his ability and track record may have jumped ship the minute that Chelsea were relegated to Division 2, but not Bonetti. Although he looked to be off having summered at the NASL team St Louis Stars, he soon returned and found himself back as Chelsea’s last line of defence.
He was a calm, experienced and steady influence on a team full of young players promoted from the academy as Chelsea looked to bounce back from the second division which they did in 1977. Sadly, Chelsea’s spell in the top flight lasted only a couple of seasons, as did ‘The Cat’s’ Chelsea career and he played his final match for Chelsea in a 1-1 draw at the Bridge against Arsenal on May 14, 1979 with Chelsea bottom of the league and already relegated.
He finished his Chelsea career with 208 clean sheets, a record only surpassed by Petr Cech in 2014. A genuinely world class goalkeeper; with a slight frame and only 5’ 10” tall with remarkable bravery and feline agility which enabled him to pull off fantastic gravity defying saves. He was a true innovator often coming off his line to punch the ball clear (at a time with little or no protection from the referee) and his trademark rolling the ball out to a midfielder to get an attack going, rather than punting it aimlessly up field.
His association with Chelsea did not end in 1979 though, as he became goalkeeping coach in 1983, at a time when coaches for goalkeepers were a novel idea and during the Premier League era, he was a very popular member of the former player Match Day hospitality team.
It was after a match at Stamford Bridge that I met Peter Bonetti for the first time. A mate and I ended up having a post-match drink with Jason Cundy and Kerry Dixon and were joined by ‘The Cat’. As Jason and Kerry became engaged in a heated but friendly argument as to whether or not Frank Lampard would become a Chelsea legend, completely ignoring us, Martin and I had a chat with Peter. He was as quiet, thoughtful and civilised as Jason and Kerry were loud and raucous. He appeared every bit a player from a different era, as indeed he was, and was an absolute gentleman.
This was confirmed a few years later when I met him again, at a launch for England’s World Cup bid held at Wembley. In truth I had no idea why I had been invited to such an exulted event; many of the football journalists I knew at the time were not admitted and had to wait in another room while I wandered around, suited and booted, drinking a cup of tea and having no idea who to talk to.
I spotted Peter Bonetti and quickly headed for him in the hope that he might recognise me and I’d have someone to talk to and not feel like the spare proverbial at a wedding. I can’t believe he did remember me but he was typically gracious and we had a chat. It then turned surreal as we were joined by Sir Bobby Charlton and Martin Peters. I managed to get a grin and a laugh out of him when stating that it was now two Chelsea boys up against Man Utd and Spurs. But in the company of two of England’s greatest players who were old mates of his, he still included me in the conversation and never once made me feel unwelcome. A true gentleman indeed.
With Peter Bonetti’s passing, Chelsea FC and Football has lost a genuine legend and real great of the game and the players from Chelsea’s great 1970 FA Cup winning team and the many young boys who became life-long supporters because of them will be feeling the loss most keenly.
Rest in peace Peter Bonetti. A brave and loyal Chelsea goalkeeper and an absolute gentleman.
David Chidgey @StamfordChidge
Football.London”14th April 2020 at 3:49 pm #96113steveosnakeeyeParticipant260 pts
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