FORMER Chelsea and England goalkeeper Peter Bonetti, who played twice in WA against the State team, has died at the age of 78 after losing a long-running battle with Alzheimers disease on Easter Sunday.
Bonetti was described by Chelsea as a “goalkeeping superstar of the 1960s and 1970s” and “one of our indisputably all-time great players”.
He was part of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad but was unused throughout the tournament, being understudy to Gordon Banks. He did, however, belatedly receive a World Cup winners medal as being a member of the squad.
He made seven England appearances and featured in the 1970 World Cup quarter-final defeat by West Germany in Mexico.
As well as playing 729 times in two spells with Chelsea, Bonetti also had brief spells at American side St Louis Stars, Dundee United and Woking FC during a career which spanned more than three decades.
Only former Chelsea captain Ron Harris has made more appearances for the Blues and Bonetti held the record for the most clean sheets until January 2014, when Petr Cech surpassed him.
He played an important role in Chelsea’s FA Cup final victory over Leeds United in 1970 and the club has described “his superhuman attempts to thwart the opposition” in front of a TV audience of more than 28 million people in the UK.
The following season Bonetti showed amazing agility as he brought off a series of stunning saves to keep Real Madrid at bay as Chelsea won the European Cup Winners Cup final.
He was nicknamed ‘The Cat’ by former team-mate Ron Tindall, who later emigrated to Australia and was State team coach and overall director of coaching in WA for a spell.
After leaving Chelsea, Bonetti moved to the Isle of Mull where he ran a guesthouse and became a postman. While living in Scotland, he briefly came out of retirement to play several games for Dundee United as understudy to Hamish McAlpine. Following his retirement from playing, Bonetti moved into coaching and had spells with Chelsea and the England national side, as well as working with Kevin Keegan at Newcastle United, Fulham and Manchester City.
Since 2005, Bonetti made several appearances for an Old England XI in various charity games, notably against celebrity sides, usually coming on for the last 10 minutes of each game.
He was in his early 20s when he turned out for Chelsea in an international challenge game against WA at the WACA Ground in 1965. The visitors triumphed 6-1, which included a hat-trick from Bobby Tambling. WA’s goal came from John Van Oosten.
At the age of 32, Bonetti was still between the posts when the London side returned to Perth in 1974. It was a tighter contest this time with Ian Hutchison scoring in the 1-0 victory over WA, which drew a crowd of 15,000 to Perry Lakes Stadium.
“Peter Bonetti’s position in the pantheon of Chelsea footballing gods is unassailable,” the club’s official website said.
“He was the Cat who broke the mould, defied the odds, drew the gasps, earned the cheers and got the cream. All in front of an adoring Stamford Bridge.”
PIC ONE: Peter Bonetti (right) with Ron Harris and the 1970 FA Cup. PIC TWO: Bonetti with England in the 1970 World Cup. PIC THREE: Bonetti with former Chelsea keeper Peter Cech.