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Sunday 30 December 2007
Obituary - Ray Goddard

The following obituary for Ray Goddard appeared in the programme for the Boxing Day game against Carshalton. The game was attended by Ray's relatives and at half time there was a minute's applause as a mark of respect for Ray from the club's fans.

The obituary was written by Ray Armfield, and it is followed by tributes made by Dickie Guy and Dave Beasant, in conversation with Mick Pugh.

The last time I saw Ray Goddard was in the mid-1980s, when he was up a ladder outside an antiques shop in Putney. I was on a WFC supporters' coach heading for (I think) Watford. Someone shouted out, "There's Ray Goddard!" so the driver beeped his horn and we all waved and exchanged smiles as we drove past. That was the first memory that went through my mind when the sad news of Ray's passing was announced on 11 December.

Born in Fulham on 13 February 1949, Goddard became a goalkeeper at his local school, Henry Compton. He quickly graduated to the West London Boys side, which whom he reached both the Corinthian and the Compton Shield finals, before his abilities were noted by Chelsea, who took him on as an associate schoolboy. Although Ray wasn't retained by the Blues when he left school, there was no shortage of offers, and he chose neighbouring Fulham in preference to Charlton and West Ham. But despite long spells in the reserves he never made the first team at Craven Cottage, and after three years he moved on again, this time to Orient on a free transfer, under the tutelage of Dick Graham - himself a former goalkeeper who would later (briefly) manage Wimbledon.

Ray enjoyed eight years as first-choice keeper at Brisbane Road, making 279 appearances for the O's, including a memorable FA Cup run in 1971/72 when the East Londoners eliminated Wrexham, Leicester and Chelsea before bowing out to Arsenal in the quarter-finals. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of his time in E10 came two seasons later, when Orient narrowly missed promotion to the top flight by just one point.

During his time with Orient, Ray was loaned to Scottish Division One club Greenock Morton for a month. That required him to take a Friday morning flight north of the border, where he would train with his temporary team-mates, play on the Saturday, and then immediately catch the next plane back to London, arriving home at around 8.30 pm.

In 1975 he moved south of the Thames to sign for Millwall in a 9,000 deal, playing 80 games for the Lions - initially under Gordon Jago - and helped them gain promotion from Division Three. Three years later he was replaced by Pat Cuff and crossed South London to Wimbledon to join Dario Gradi's Dons for 4,500, with Gradi describing Ray as "the type of player who has to be purchased when available".

It was a scratchy start to life in SW19 for Ray, who found himself having to replace a legend in Dickie Guy, but he weathered an early spell of indifferent form to win over the crowd and establish himself in the Wimbledon goal, making his debut in a 0-0 draw with Scunthorpe (as did a teenage striker called Alan Cork) and playing in the remaining 17 games of the season. In his trademark padded tracksuit bottoms (worn because he was susceptible to bad grass burns) he helped the Dons to 14th spot in their first Football League campaign.

Ray missed just one game (in which current AFC Wimbledon goalkeeping coach Paul Priddy deputised) in Wimbledon's promotion-winning 1978/79 season. The following year's League Cup competition saw the emergence of some hidden talents at the other end of the field during a penalty shoot-out against Orient, when Ray saved the O's final spot-kick and then scored the winning penalty himself to clinch the tie 5-4.

By now, Ray's deputy was a gangling youth named Dave Beasant, whom Ray groomed during his latter days with the club, and it wasn't long before "Lurch" became the first-choice keeper. Goddard did, however, return for a half a dozen matches in the spring, and with a swift return to Division Three already assured and his retirement from professional football on the cards, Ray was brought back for a farewell appearance on the last day of the season at home to Bury, where manager Dave Bassett also blooded a few promising youngsters. Although the Dons lost 4-2, Ray got the biggest cheer of the day when he slammed a late penalty past a young Neville Southall in the Shakers goal to round off a fine pro career in style.

Ray moved on to Wealdstone in 1981, along with a number of other former Dons. He proved something of a promotion talisman yet again as the Stones won the Southern League Southern Division title and the Southern League Cup double, where the ever-present Goddard was the cup final hero with a string of fine saves in a 1-0 win at Gloucester City.

1982/83 saw Ray miss just a single game at Lower Mead (oddly enough, Paul Priddy replaced him again), but the following year he was displaced by former Chelsea junior Bob Iles and started just 20 games in the next two seasons, although he remained a valuable member of the Stones Gola League/FA Trophy winning squad, alongside a youthful Vinnie Jones.

Retiring at the age of 36, he stepped down to briefly join Isthmian League strugglers Leatherhead - where he conceded seven goals on his debut against Barton Rovers - but soon moved to Spain, where he settled with his wife Linda and daughter Jamie at Calahonda, on the Costa del Sol.

Ray suffered a fall late in 2007 and passed away on 11 December, after a stroke, aged just 58. His funeral took place in Spain three days later.

Dickie Guy followed by Ray Goddard followed by Dave Beasant - this was the goalkeeping dynasty that took Wimbledon from the Southern League to the top flight of English football. Mick Pugh spoke to Ray's predecessor and his successor about their recollections of "Michelin Man".

I knew Ray for a relatively short time when he joined the Plough Lane squad. He was an excellent young goalkeeper and soon became very popular with all the Wimbledon players, working hard to gain selection for the first team. On several occasions we met at various functions during the past few years, and Ray was always keen to talk about his Wimbledon days. He was a thoroughly pleasant man and will be greatly missed by all his family and friends. - Dickie Guy

After the departure of Dickie Guy, Ray was the first-choice keeper at Plough Lane. When I joined the club I was immediately made welcome. We had no goalkeeping coach in those days, so I valued the support, encouragement and advice that Ray always gave me. He helped the younger players with his experience and calmness and always had a friendly smile.

I finally got my debut after Ray injured his back. It didn't go well! But it was Ray who was the very first to give me his encouragement and support - something I never forgot as my career developed towards international recognition and that glorious day at Wembley, 14 May 1988.

One of the more amusing sides of Ray was his choice of "goalkeeper protection gear". He got his wife to sew huge foam pads into tracksuit bottoms and the elbows of his jersey, to combat the often bone-hard goalmouths. The result, however, was that Ray often resembled the "Michelin Man", much to the amusement of the fans and players alike.

I will always remember Ray for the help and encouragement he so generously gave me, for his warm, welcoming smile, and for the fact that he was always a true gentleman. - Dave Beasant

And, finally, more quotes from Ray's teammates.

I feel proud to have known Ray. Just the mention of his name brings back such good memories of time spent with him. He will be sorely missed by me and many others who had the pleasure of knowing him. - John Leslie

Ray was a good keeper who was always on hand to help his fellow pros. He helped Dave Beasant to bloom. I stayed in touch with Ray and would like it known that he will be missed by all his former colleagues and friends at Wimbledon. - Dave Bassett

The club would like to offer its condolences to Ray's family, several of whom are planning to attend today's game at Kingsmeadow.