Strong bond between Clemence and son
PUBLISHED: 08:30 16 June 2018
They are a father-and-son duo who both played for Tottenham Hotspur and Father's Day this weekend will reinforce the strongest of bonds between Ray and Stephen Clemence.
Legendary former England, Spurs and Liverpool keeper Ray Clemence has been living with prostate cancer for more than a decade – and his family have been a pillar of support in that time.
Recently Ray travelled up to Aston Villa’s training complex to join Stephen in promoting the dangers of the disease for leading men’s health charity Prostate Cancer UK.
Then on the staff of England as goalkeeping coach, it was following a chat with the former national team physio that Clemence took the decision to visit his GP.
“It came from nothing really,” said Ray. “I was past 50, I didn’t feel ill at all. Basically, when I went to the toilet, the flow of water wasn’t as strong as it used to be and never felt like I emptied my bladder. I was with the England team at time as a coach and I spoke to the physio, Gary Lewin and explained the situation to him. He asked my age and mentioned the PSA test.”
Clemence would be diagnosed, and had his prostate removed. He’s since had hormone therapy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In that time he’s also recovered from a brain tumour.
He added: “It’s very much on my mind; it’s a mental thing, for me, as long as I can be strong mentally, I’ll get through it, whatever it is, I’ll get through it. There are days when I don’t feel the best, but hopefully it’s when nobody’s around.
“But I just want to give a positive attitude to everybody that’s involved in prostate cancer whether they’re helping to find cures for it, or whether they’ve got it. I’m a survivor, basically. There’s lots of talk about people only lasting five or six years with it. Well I’m 13 going on 14 years now, and I’m doing all the things that I want to do, playing golf, and seeing my family.
“I’m not right and I’ll probably never be totally right but it’s going to be a long time before it gets me because I’m too positive for it.”
Stephen, who graduated to the first team at Spurs, where his father enjoyed a stellar spell between the posts, was in awe of his dad’s fight against the toughest opponent of all.
He said: “He’s been through a hell of a lot, this started 13 years ago. I remember my son was born the day after my dad was in for his first operation. So, he’s been through a hell of a lot, a lot of treatment but he’s a strong, strong man and everybody says how well he looks and he’s still fighting strong today.
“But it’s not been easy for him. He’s had a lot to go through and it has been tough on him mentally too, but he doesn’t really let anyone see that.
“I remember when I got the call about his prostate cancer, and that was when I was still playing and it’s obviously a difficult period when you get a phone call that says there’s something not quite right.
“The first thing you have to do is obviously check he’s okay and if there’s anything you can do for him. But what we always try to be as a family, me and my sisters, is try and be as positive as we can and be there. Not just for my dad but to be there for my mum as well because it’s difficult for her as well.”
The stark stats about prostate cancer is that one in eight men will suffer from the disease in their lifetime, like Ray.
But Stephen too is in the zone of risk, and as the son of someone affected is equally two-and-a-half times more likely to be affected by the disease.
Ray added: “Obviously, I would like him not to have that risk but unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that I got it and unfortunately, I know my father had it, he didn’t die of it, but he did have it.
“Therefore, it does pass down the chain so it’s just important people have more knowledge about it now. It’s certainly something you’ve got to be aware of and therefore make sure you are checked early and therefore if there is anything that’s wrong, then it can be sorted out before it’s gone too far. Which in my case it had done.”
The Clemences have both proudly sported the Prostate Cancer UK Man of Men pin badge, and Stephen admitted the icon has special meaning.
“We’ve always had a great relationship,” said Stephen. “A lot of people see my dad as this England, Liverpool and Tottenham legend, to me he’s just my dad.
“When I see the badge the first thing I think about is my dad. But I think my dad’s is living proof, say 13, or 14 years later, that there’s a way through it. You’ve got to be strong, you’re going to go through some tough times, but the charity is raising a lot of awareness and there is a lot of great work done by Prostate Cancer UK and long may that continue.”
The fight goes on for Ray, who is supporting Prostate Cancer UK’s Football March for Men on Sunday July 22 and will be handing out medals to 400 people who will be walking across four varying routes across the capital.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have many, many big moments in football, emotional moments in football but certainly the most emotional family moment in football was when my wife and I went to Wembley to see an England schoolboy game. England versus Germany, which used to be the big game for schoolboys,” he added.
“To see my son, walk out of the old Wembley with an England shirt on at a place that I played 50 times and for him to walk out 15 years of age to play against Germany, you know that takes some beating. You don’t get that experience very often in your life.
“I look at our relationship and I’ve always said it’s not a father, son thing, we’re mates. And if father and son can be mates then that’s special.”
Ray added: “Prostate cancer is a physical illness but it’s a mental fight against it and if you get weak I think it will have you. But if you’re strong mentally, then you’re certainly going to give it a good fight and you’re going to fight it as long as you possibly can. And that’s where I am at the moment as far as I’m concerned.
“I know that it’s never going to go away, it’s how long I can fight it and how long the wonderful medical staff that have been around me can keep giving me the treatment. That helps me to fight it.”
Tottenham Hotspur’s new home ground is on one of the four routes of the epic convergence event that ends at Wembley.
The East London leg of the march starts at West Ham United’s London Stadium, the route also visiting National League Leyton Orient before popping in on North London neighbours Spurs and Arsenal before Wembley.
Many people are unaware that prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. For the first time, the number of men dying from prostate cancer every year has overtaken the number of women dying from breast cancer, making prostate cancer the third biggest cancer killer in the UK. One man dies from prostate cancer every 45 minutes, but fans are fighting back to make prostate cancer a disease that the next generation of men do not fear.
To sign up for the March for Men or find out more information go to: www.prostatecanceruk.org/footballmarch.