LONDON: Peter Bonetti, who has died at 78, had the good fortune to be one of Chelsea’s finest-ever goalkeepers. He also had the ill fortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time for England.

‘The Cat’, made 729 appearances for Chelsea, winning the 1965 League Cup, the 1970 FA Cup and the Cup-winners Cup a year later. He had been ill for some time.

A Chelsea statement said: “Peter Bonetti’s position in the pantheon of Chelsea footballing gods is unassailable. 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.”

Born in Putney, Bonetti came through the Chelsea youth system along with fellow future Blues stars Bobby Tambling and Terry Venables, and made his first-team debut aged 18 in a 3-0 win over Manchester City in April 1960, the first of 208 clean cheets he would keep for the club.

Bonetti held the record for the most clean sheets as a Chelsea goalkeeper until January 2014, when Petr Cech surpassed him.

First choice for the Blues through the 1960s and 70s, Bonetti was part of a generation of goalkeepers who began to redefine the art of the position into what it resembles today, with an emphasis on dominating the penalty area to collect crosses, and starting out attacks by playing the ball out from the back.

He was also one of the first goalkeepers to wear gloves – initally sporting gardening gloves during matches, he later had his own Peter Bonetti-branded kit of the type which is now synonymous with the position in the modern game.

After retiring, Bonetti continued to be a pioneer for the Blues, appointed as their first-ever specialist goalkeeper coach in 1983. He also worked with England at the 1990 World Cup.

Bonetti won seven caps for England, and served as No2 behind Gordon Banks during the team’s run to glory at the 1966 World Cup. After an FA-led campaign years later which persuaded FIFA to reward every squad member, Bonetti was presented with a medal by Prime Minister Gordon Brown at Downing Street in 2009.

Most unfortunately Bonetti was in goal for the 1970 World Cup quarter-final against West Germany. Banks was struck down by food poisoning on the eve of the game and England, the World Cup holders, lost 3-2 in extra time after leading 2-0.

As well as Chelsea, Bonetti also had a brief spell with US side St. Louis Stars in the North American Soccer League, and finished his career with a season at Dundee United.