Peter Shilton

From Academic Kids

Peter Shilton MBE OBE (born Leicester, England, September 18, 1949) was an outstanding goalkeeper who holds the record for most international appearances for his country.

In a 30-year career which took in eleven clubs, three World Cups, two European Cup finals and more than 1,000 competitive matches, Shilton emerged as one of the English game's genuine legends.

Contents

Local Boy Made Good

Shilton was 13 when he started training at schoolboy level with his local club Leicester City. where he caught the eye of first team goalkeeper Gordon Banks, who commented to the coach about how promising he was. Within four years, Shilton had forced Banks' own departure from Leicester after the teenager gave the club an ultimatum over which goalkeeper should be first choice.

In May 1966, a 16 year old Shilton had made his debut for Leicester against Everton and his potential was quickly spotted to the extent that the Leicester management sided with their teenage prodigy and sold Banks, a World Cup winner the previous year, to Stoke City. Shilton settled into first team life thereafter, even managing to score a goal against Southampton in October 1967 direct from a clearance at the opposite end of the pitch.

The following season Leicester had a mixed season; suffering relegation from the First Division, but reaching the FA Cup final at Wembley and a 19 year old Shilton became one of the event's youngest-ever goalkeepers. It didn't go his way, however, as a single goal from Manchester City's Neil Young early in the match was enough to win the game. Despite the many honours and accolades which were to come Shilton's way, he would not appear in an FA Cup final again.

England Calls

An ambitious Shilton considered moving from Leicester after relegation, but decided to stick with his boyhood team. This decision was vindicated when, despite playing at a lower level, he impressed England manager Alf Ramsey sufficiently to give him his debut against East Germany in November 1970. England won 3-1. Little more than six months later, Shilton's outstanding performances helped Leicester to promotion back to the First Division.

His second England cap came in a goalless draw against Wales at Wembley; and his first competitive match for his country was his third appearance as England drew 1-1 with Switzerland in a qualifying game for the 1972 European Championships. At this stage, Banks was still England's first choice keeper, but the remaining brace of back-ups from the 1970 World Cup, Peter Bonetti and Alex Stepney, had been cast aside by Ramsey so Shilton could begin to regard himself as his country's number two goalkeeper at the age of 22.

Life with Leicester City rumbled on in a rather event-free manner as Shilton's England career progressed. His fourth and fifth England caps came towards the end of 1972 (England had failed to qualify for the European Championship competition) but then a tragic incident suddenly saw Shilton propelled into the limelight as England's number one keeper.

In October 1972, Banks was involved in a car crash which resulted in the loss of the sight in one eye and instantly ended his career. Though Liverpool goalkeeper Ray Clemence was called up to make his debut a month later in England's opening qualifier for the 1974 World Cup, (a 1-0 win over Wales) it was clear that Shilton suddenly had to bear responsibility for keeping England's goal.

This he did with aplomb through the summer of 1973, keeping three clean sheets as England defeated Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, while drawing with Czechoslovakia - a match which earned Shilton his tenth cap - as a warm-up to a crucial World Cup qualifier against Poland in Chorzow a week later. This went badly wrong for England, with Shilton powerless to stop both goals in a 2-0 defeat and therefore making victory in the final qualifier, against the same opposition at Wembley four months later, a necessity if England were to make the finals.

Poland & "The Perfect Save"

Shilton was selected by Ramsey for the match, walking out behind captain Martin Peters to earn his 15th cap. Aside from one infamous incident, he spent pretty much all of the game watching the heroics of his opposite number Jan Tomaszewski as he kept chance after chance out of his net.

Unfortunately, when the ball finally did get into the net, it was at Shilton's end, in the first moment which formed part of the whole definition of Shilton's career. Midway through the second half, Norman Hunter inexplicably trod on the ball near the touchline and Poland broke, with Grzegorz Lato feeding the ball across to the onrushing Jan Domarski.

As Domarski shaped to hit the ball first time, Shilton got himself into position to be able to block a shot coming at him from any angle. Domarski's drive, struck beyond Emlyn Hughes' challenge, was low and not well hit but it was on target for inside the near post and Shilton needed to deal with it, yet despite the proximity of the ball to Shilton, he dived to it fractionally too late and the ball skidded under his body and into the net. Though the restricted view of the ball caused by Hughes' late attempt at a tackle mitigated Shilton's case, it was accepted by everyone that he should have saved it. Shilton later said he was trying to make "the perfect save" and momentarily forgot that his first priority was to keep the ball out of the net, rather than make sure he held on to it.

England equalised swiftly through a penalty from Allan Clarke, with Shilton famously turning his back on the ball at the opposite end because he could not bear to look, but Tomaszewski's continued heroics kept England out to the final whistle, and England failed to qualify for the World Cup. Poland would go on to finish third in the competition.

Stoke City

As the season came to an end, Leicester got to the FA Cup semi finals where Shilton was beaten - in a replay after the initial game ended goalless - by a stunning lobbed volley from Liverpool's Kevin Keegan, which helped dump Leicester out of the competition at the cruellest of stages. By this stage, Shilton was wearing an all-white goalkeeper's kit instead of the traditional green after lending his name to the Admiral sportswear. This distinctive kit brought a lot of Press attention and pundit Jimmy Hill even claimed on television that Keegan was able to score the goal he did because the kit made it easier for him to see Shilton's position from the corner of his eye.

Shilton left Leicester that summer, deciding he needed a change. He joined Stoke City for 325,000 pounds. By now he and Clemence were beginning to open a real battle to be regarded as England's top keeper, and each were given their share of caps. In 1975, however, Clemence seemed to be getting the edge, winning eight of the nine caps available under new coach Don Revie, though England failed to reach the 1976 European Championships during this period. Shilton played just once for England in 1975, not at all in 1976 and just twice in 1977. Clemence was in control, overtaking Shilton's caps total in the process as England fought in vain to reach the 1978 World Cup. Stoke were a struggling side, and upon relegation in 1977 Shilton asked for a transfer in the hope of reviving his England career.

Cups with Clough

Nottingham Forest made an offer of 250,000 pounds and Shilton signed a month into the new season. Forest had just been promoted to the First Division and were on the up under Brian Clough. They won the League Cup in a replay after initially drawing with Liverpool at Wembley, though Shilton missed that as he was cup-tied, and then incredibly clinched the League title in their first season back in the first division. Shilton made a save in the clinching 0-0 draw against Coventry City which critics regarded as his greatest ever - a vicious close range header from David Ferguson seemed destined for the net with Shilton slightly out of position, but he got across to palm it over the bar.

As if to emphasise his return to the top of his game, new England coach Ron Greenwood started to select Shilton with similar regularity as Clemence until it got to the stage where he genuinely couldn't decide whom his best keeper was and therefore made a point of alternating them.

Forest won the League Cup again in 1979 - this time Shilton played as they defeated Southampton 3-2 at Wembley - before reaching the European Cup final where a Trevor Francis goal was enough to beat Swedish side Malmö in Munich. Shilton then featured heavily as England qualified for the 1980 European Championships in Italy - their first tournament for a decade.

Prior to competing in Italy, Shilton had another eventful season with Forest, reaching a third consecutive League Cup final, with Wolverhampton Wanderers the opponents at Wembley. There was no third successive victory, however, as an appalling lack of communication between Shilton and defender David Needham resulted in a collision on the edge of the Forest penalty area, leaving Andy Gray free to tap the ball into the net for the game's only goal.

Forest then reached the European Cup final again - as holders they were entitled to defend the trophy even though they hadn't won the League title again - and faced SV Hamburg in Madrid. Like the 1979 final, the game was tight and one goal settled it from Forest winger John Robertson. Among the disappointed Hamburg players was Keegan, now Shilton's captain at international level. Shilton subsequently won the PFA Player of the Year award, voted for by his fellow professionals.

Spain & Southampton

Shilton had won his 30th England cap in a 2-0 win over Spain in March 1980; his 31st wouldn't come until the European Championships themselves. Unfortunately, it was a 1-0 defeat to Italy, which proved crucial as England failed to get through to the knockout phase.

Life began to decline for Shilton afterwards. Forest never reproduced any more trophy-winning form and sank into mid-table mediocrity, while Shilton began what would be a long-standing gambling addiction which would cause considerable strain to his family. There were also stories of an extra-marital affair and a conviction for drink-driving, all of which contributed to Shilton's decision to leave Nottingham Forest in 1982 and start afresh. First of all though, he had the none-too-small matter of the 1982 World Cup to consider.

Shilton had played in two of the qualifying games - a goalless draw against Romania and a vital 1-0 win over Hungary. Both games were at Wembley and the latter was the last game of the campaign which England had to win to qualify for the finals in Spain, leading to a potential repeat of the events against Poland in 1973. Thankfully for Shilton and England, the result was right this time and England were going to their first World Cup for a dozen years, with Shilton appearing in the finals for the the first time at the comparatively ripe age of 32.

At last Greenwood made a decision on his goalkeeping situation. Clemence played in the friendlies building up to the competition, but it was Shilton who was selected for the opening group game against France in Bilbao. England won 3-1 and Shilton stayed in goal for the two remaining group games and the two goalless draws in the second phase which saw England's exit from the competition.

Shilton duly left Forest and, despite interest from Arsenal, opted to join Southampton, where his former international team-mates Keegan and Alan Ball were both playing. With Bobby Robson now running the England team, Shilton's international career flourished, playing in Robson's first ten matches, even captaining the side in seven of them in the absence of Bryan Robson and Ray Wilkins. One game, a 2-0 win over Scotland, earned Shilton his 50th cap.

When Clemence came back for a qualifier for the 1984 European Championships against Luxembourg, Shilton did not need to worry. The game, Clemence's 61st for his country, also turned out to be his last.

England failed to qualify for the European Championships, while at Southampton, Shilton suffered FA Cup semi final heartbreak again when he was beaten by a last minute Adrian Heath header which gave Everton a place in the final. However, he was now undisputably the first choice goalkeeper for his country. It was 1985 before Shilton was once more not selected for an England game - and even then it was so Robson could give a debut to the Manchester United goalkeeper Gary Bailey in a meaningless friendly. Shilton was still the keeper for the qualifying campaign for the 1986 World Cup, which thus far had seen three wins from three matches and no goals conceded.

A 70th cap came Shilton's way in a shock 1-0 defeat against Scotland at Hampden Park; he later saved a penalty as England satisfyingly beat West Germany 3-0 in a tour match in Mexico, a year before England were hoping to return there for the World Cup.

This was assured as England went through the whole qualifying campaign undefeated and by the time they played Mexico in an acclimatisation match prior to the competition, Shilton was 80 games into his England career, having beaten Banks' record for a goalkeeper of 73 caps the previous year against Turkey.

The "Hand Of God"

At the World Cup itself, England started slowly, losing the opening group match to Portugal and then drawing against outsiders Morocco, during which time Robson was led off injured and Wilkins was sent off. In their absences, Shilton was handed the captaincy as England found their form to destroy Poland 3-0 in their final group game - Gary Lineker got them all - and progress to the second round.

There they met Paraguay and though Shilton did have to make one awesome fingertip save during the first half, England were rarely troubled. Lineker scored twice and Peter Beardsley once as England coasted through 3-0 and into a quarter final meeting with Argentina, a match which again would utimately form part of the definition of Shilton's whole career.

Argentina captain Diego Maradona had been the man of the tournament thus far, but in a tight first half England managed to keep his creativity reasonably at bay. But early in the second half, Maradona changed the game, much to Shilton's anger and embarrassment.

Maradona began an attack which seemingly broke down on the edge of the England box as Steve Hodge got a foot to the ball. Unfortunately, the ball was skewed back towards the penalty area and Maradona, continuing the run from his initial pass, went after it as Shilton came racing out, expecting to easily outjump the small Argentinian and punch clear. Somehow though, Maradona managed to get higher than Shilton and knock the ball into the net. Shilton and his team-mates instantly knew Maradona had used his hand - entirely illegal for any footballer except a goalkeeper - but the Tunisian referee allowed the goal. A famous photograph subsequently showed Maradona's fist making contact with the ball as Shilton was still midway through his own stretch, arm extended. Maradona later said the goal was scored by the Hand of God and the tag has stuck to this day.

Shortly afterwards, Maradona scored a legitimiate and breath-taking goal, taking on pretty much the whole England defence and Shilton before shooting into an empty net. Lineker pulled one back and nearly equalised in the closing seconds, but England were out in an extremely dubious fashion. Shilton, at 36, seemed to have featured in his last World Cup match.

Derby & Disaster

However, he continued to play for England, featuring in a straightforward and successful qualification campaign for the 1988 European Championships, which were to be held in West Germany. Meanwhile, Shilton left Southampton to join Derby County in the summer of 1987. This was to be his last major move in the game.

Shilton had won his 90th cap for England in a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland in a European Championship qualifier - as it turned out, his 100th cap was due during the finals themselves, assuming he was selected, though this looked a certainty.

It was so, but England's performance in Germany was woeful. Shilton's 99th cap came in a humiliating 1-0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland; his 100th, against Holland, therefore carried real importance as well as sentiment and achievement. Marco van Basten ruined Shilton's day and England's hopes of progress with a ruthless second half hat-trick as England lost 3-1. Robson left Shilton out of the third and final group game as it was now meaningless, but England still managed to lose it, also 3-1. Chris Woods, longtime understudy to Shilton (and his teenage understudy a decade earlier at Forest - he had played in the League Cup final when Shilton was cup-tied) was given a rare game.

Some claimed it made sense for Shilton to retire from his England career afterwards with precisely 100 caps to his name. But Shilton continued and Robson was happy to keep selecting him. Shilton played in all bar one of the England games over the next 18 months - the one he missed saw a debut for a future England goalkeeping great, David Seaman of Queens Park Rangers.

A Record Breaker

In June 1989, Shilton broke his old England skipper Bobby Moore's record of 108 appearances for his country when he won his 109th cap in a friendly against Denmark in Copenhagen. Prior to the match he was handed a framed England goalkeeper's jersey with '109' on the front. He had, by this time, kept three clean sheets in three qualifying matches for the 1990 World Cup and would ultimately concede no goals at all as England qualified for the tournament, to be held in Italy.

It was his 119th appearance for his country as England drew 1-1 with the Republic of Ireland in the opening group game; Shilton would later perform heroics as England got through the group, beat Belgium 1-0 in a tight and dramatic second round match, and then edged past Cameroon 3-2 in the quarter finals, thanks to two Lineker penalties after England went 2-1 down. Then came the West Germans in the semi finals, Shilton's 124th England game.

It was goalless at half time, but shortly after the restart Shilton was left powerless by Andreas Brehme's free kick which looped horribly off Paul Parker's shin and dropped into the net over Shilton's head, despite his furious backpedalling attempts to tip the ball over. Lineker's late equaliser salvaged a draw for England but Shilton could not get close to any of the highly efficient and confident penalties taken by the Germans in the deciding shoot out, while England missed two of theirs and went out of the tournament.

Shilton stayed in the side for the pointless third place play-off game, which ended in a 2-1 win for Italy. It was his 125th appearance for his country and, after the tournament ended, he announced it would be his last.

Management

In 1991, Derby were relegated and Shilton started to consider his playing future. He was 41 and was ready to become a coach or manager. He turned down a chance to manage Hull City for geographical reasons before accepting an offer to become manager of Plymouth Argyle, for whom he would also play. In 1994 he started to concentrate solely on management and Plymouth reached the Second Division play-offs, but lost in the semi finals to Burnley. He left a year later and looked to start playing again.

He joined Wimbledon, but didn't play a game. One match for Bolton Wanderers and non-playing spells with Coventry and West Ham United followed.

One Thousand Matches & Beyond

With 998 competitive matches to his name, Shilton was anxious to reach the 1,000 mark and this he did when he joined Leyton Orient. His thousandth game came against Brighton and Hove Albion, which was screened live on Sky Sports and was preceded by the presentation from the Football League of a special edition of the Guinness Book of Records to Shilton. He played five more matches before retiring on 1005 games at the age of 47.

Shilton, recovered from financial troubles caused by business decisions and gambling, is now goalkeeping coach at Middlesbrough and is a prolific after-dinner speaker. He and wife Sue were married in 1970 and had two sons - Michael and Samuel, the latter of whom also became a footballer, though not a goalkeeper. He has played for a number of lower league clubs and is currently at Burton Albion in the Football Conference.

Shilton received both the MBE and the OBE during his playing career for services to football. In 1990, following his retirement from international football, he was awarded the prestigious Order of Merit by the PFA and a year later he received the Football Writers' Tribute Award.de:Peter Shilton

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