A memorial service was held on Friday with our legendary goalkeeper’s ashes interred…
It was to the accompaniment of the song ‘Bring Him Home’ from the musical Les Miserables that Peter Bonetti’s ashes, led by a guard of honour of Chelsea Pensioners and carried by his son Scott, were brought out onto the edge of the Stamford Bridge pitch. It was just one poignant moment in many at the memorial service for our great goalkeeper held on Friday afternoon.For Peter is now in his final resting place, a place he truly regarded as his home. Over a thousand fans plus family, friends, former team-mates, representatives of Chelsea Football Club and others from the world of football joined him there too, attending a service bathed in spring sunlight having been delayed since Peter’s passing in April 2020 due to the pandemic.
‘When Peter used to come here in the latter years, whatever his memory was, he always knew this was home,’ explained Kay Bonetti, Peter’s widow. ‘As he approached, he grew wings, it was his home, and I actually felt him fly when Nessun Dorma was played today.‘It was after he came to Peter Osgood’s memorial here that he said this is what I want for me. It was his home then and it is his home now.’
Nessun Dorma and Les Miserables, sung by opera singer and Chelsea supporter Stuart Pendred, were joined as part of the service by Abide with Me, the FA Cup final hymn, so appropriate for remembering a player who was simply heroic when Chelsea won that trophy for the first time.John Dempsey was the centre-half in that side and was at Stamford Bridge today.‘My favourite save Peter made was in that cup final, from Peter Lorimer,’ he said. ‘I was thinking it is going in and I could not believe he saved it, so even though I was on the pitch I started clapping, because I was so pleased he saved it but also because it was such a good save.
‘It was a very sad time losing Peter a couple of years ago but everything about this service was top class. To play over 700 games for a club is amazing, and I was lucky enough to play with him and what a top goalkeeper he was! He played the same time as Gordon Banks but because we played with him, we classed him as number one.‘I could always hear him giving instructions behind me and although he was not that tall for a goalkeeper, when the ball came in he was often up there above me, taking it and not dropping it. You always knew with him behind you, you were safe.‘You could not find a nicer person as well, a real gentleman and a lovely human being. The fact that Charlie Cooke has come all the way from America to be here shows what respect he had for Peter.’
Cooke was another colleague from those 1970s trophy-winning years.‘I came because I wanted to commemorate Peter and one of the things I especially wanted to commemorate was his professionalism,’ he explained.‘In the dressing room he was not a big shouter but if you went out on the training field, he worked his butt off and I can remember cross-countries with him, he would always be trying to win them.‘I admired that, plus his courage when going to ground. He was famous for his cat-like acrobatics but when he had to go down at people’s feet he was fantastic.
‘I found it very moving today when the fans here started singing Peter’s name, a reminder of how people reacted to him here when he was playing. I thought the number present was fantastic, given the circumstances, and you could feel the enthusiasm of the fans who remember him clearly.’Those fans in the Shed End stand watched Reverend Martin Swan, another Blues fans, conduct the service and declare that the foundation of the club is built upon the talent of players like Peter Bonetti.
He stepped back for tributes to be paid. Actor Clive Mantle, representing the generation of Chelsea fans who grew up with ‘The Cat’ as their hero, recalled the flash of green flying behind the blue of the rest of the team to make incredible saves. Pat Nevin, who was a player when Peter returned to the club as our first dedicated goalkeeper coach in the 1980s, remembered when he as a seven-year-old Celtic fan in faraway Glasgow was inspired to buy a pair of the iconic green Bonetti goalkeeping gloves. Many others in today’s crowd freely admitted to doing so too.The brass band present played Blue is the Colour, and Peter’s ashes were interred behind the goal at the Shed End of Stamford Bridge, The Cat’s true home.