Interview: Peter Shilton on Given, Hart, Buffon and Ireland in ’88
Ahead of England versus Italy JOE spoke to Peter Shilton. He had some advice for Shay Given and Joe Hart, recalled playing Ireland in Euro ’88 and rated Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon.
Peter Shilton is a legend.
The England keeper can’t be any more of a legend.
He retired at age of 47 in 1997 playing for Leyton Orient having started his professional career in 1966, a span of 31 years.
He retired as the most capped English player of all-time and with the most appearances in club football of all time. He was also a vital part of Brian Clough’s remarkable Nottingham Forest side that won two European Cups.
Therefore it’s the cruel curse that he was a goalkeeper, a position where the highlight reel of your career will always be comprised of the mistakes you make.
If you haven’t got a good goalkeeper… you haven’t really got a good side.
Around the world Shilton is remembered for being the keeper that held a grudge for years against Maradona for the diminutive Argentinian’s “Hand of God” goal against him in 1986.
For Irish fans he is fondly remembered for conceding the first goal Ireland ever scored at a major international football tournament.
Christ, that must be frustrating?
Shilton laughs. “Oh yeah, yeah that goes without saying!,” he replies.
“People rarely remember the save, that’s what made Gordon Banks’ career extra special – that save against Pelé,” he says of his old mentor at Leicester City and World Cup-winning goalkeeper in 1966.
“I was very fortunate because there were two in particular people seem to remember about me too. There was one for England against [Kenny] Daglish in 1973, the BBC still play that and it was on the front of my autobiography,” Shilton says before mentioning another. “There was one at club level too, when Forest won the old first Division in their first season up at Coventry against a fellow called Ferguson.
“You are very lucky as a goalkeeper to be remembered for great saves, it’s usually when things go wrong,” he concludes.
Given and Shilton: The 125 Club
He must feel sorry for Shay Given then. The Irish shot-stopper has been a legend for Ireland, rarely, if ever, putting in a poor performance in his sixteen years playing for Ireland, until Euro 2012 where many felt he should have done better for some of the nine goals Ireland conceded.
During the tournament Given reached 125 appearances for Ireland, the same amount of appearances Shilton made for England before hanging up his international gloves. What did Shilton thinkof Given’s out-of-sorts performances this tournament?
“Shay is a great goalkeeper and has great technique, but when a team is struggling that obviously doesn’t help as well,” answers Shilton.
“It’s fair to say he didn’t have the best of times, but it’s a team effort and you need to have players in front of you to perform as well.”
Some people believe that Given’s sub-par performances may have been down to the knee injury he had before the tournament and that it wasn’t fully healed. Shilton reckons Ireland would have been foolish to risk him in that condition
“You can never tell… You wouldn’t have thought players would be playing with injuries, not at that level anyway. Sometimes managers take a risk on a slight injury, but I wouldn’t have thought they’d play him with an injury that might affect him dramatically.”
Over his lengthy career Shilton played through injury at times, but never a severe injury he says.
“Yeah of course you play with certain knocks, but they were normally things that you could play with through the pain barrier and manage.”
An injury such as the knee injury Given was purported to be carrying into the tournament would be the exact type that goalkeepers shouldn’t countenance playing with, according to the former England number one.
“Any area that affects your mobility as a goalkeeper are going to be a problem.”
There’s some talk of Given retiring now, if that happens how would Shilton would rate the Donegal man’s legacy?
“I think he’s been a world-class keeper for a long time now…What age did you say he was again?” asks Shilton.
“Ah well, he’s still a spring chicken really! I played in Italia ’90 when I was almost 41! He’s quite a reasonable age for a ‘keeper so as long as he avoids injuries you’d think he’d be able to play on for a few more years yet.”
Before retiring Shilton cautions Given against making any rash decisions based on the disappointment at what happened in Poland.
“Obviously he’s thinking about the European Championships and that’s putting pressure on to decide if he retires or not, but I think he’s still young enough to play on for another couple of years.”
Shilton: The Boy Wonder
Aside from having the same amount of international appearances, there is another similar experience in Given’s and Shilton’s career.
Given, the established international, was forced out of Manchester City by the younger, potential-filled Joe Hart a few years back.
Back in 1967, a 17-year old Shilton gave Leicester an ultimatum – him or England’s World Cup-winning goalkeeper from the year before, Gordon Banks.
“Well I had been at Leicester since the age of 10 and I was a local lad. I’d played for England schoolboys and I’d played for the first team on a couple of occasions when Gordon was away with England…and I’d done well.
“I think there were a few clubs trying to sniff around thinking ‘Leicester have two good goalkeepers they can’t hold on to both of them that are of that standard’ so Leicester were put in an awkward position.”
Shilton was prepared to move, he felt he was good enough at 17 to be playing regularly in the First Division. He didn’t have to in the end.
“I think Leicester took the stance that Gordon was older and although he still had a few years left to play they would get more for Gordon than they would for me, so I was the longer term investment.”
A few years later Shilton moved from Leicester to Stoke too.
“I think it’s ironic that when I went to Stoke Gordon had finished playing and was the goalkeeping coach there. Stoke paid £350,000 for me which was a world-record fee, so I suppose Leicester did make the right financial decision in the end.”
Banks had spotted Shilton’s talent at a young age and mentored him at the club. Banks is the only English goalkeeper in history that could be considered Shilton’s superior. Did he ever talk to him about the transfer?
“I think Gordon was a little taken aback that they decided to sell him, but I think eventually he was quite keen on the idea because in those days the only real way to earn money in football was to move clubs and by transfer fees and percentages of transfer fees.
“Everybody ended up quite happy, but at the start he was quite put out that Leicester were willing to sell, quite rightly put out in my opinion.”
European success with Nottingham Forest
Hart: The next Boy Wonder?
There’s a great lineage of English goalkeepers; Banks, Shilton, Ray Clemence, David Seaman and, after a long time without a set number one, now Hart. What is Shilton’s opinion of the Man City and England star?
“It is early days to talk about Joe in that sort of terms, but the potential is there. The age too, he’s still young for a goalkeeper, he seems to be getting better, he’s certainly very confident and he’s performed well up until now in the Euros, apart from a few wobbly moments.”
Shilton insists that a settled presence in between the posts is vital for England after years of instability. The importance of Hart’s development can’t be overstated.
“Aside from scoring goals, the second hardest thing to do in football is keeping goals. Scoring goals is the hardest thing, it’s a fine art that, but goalkeeping is definitely a close second.
If you haven’t got a good goalkeeper or a good striker you haven’t really got a good side.”
Shilton played in four different decades professionally
Nailing down number one
For a long time England had two great goalkeepers in Clemence and Shilton. Both were fighting it out to be England’s number one after Banks’s enforced retirement due to a car crash in 1972.
Shilton and Clemence amassed 186 appearances for England between them over the course of that battle – was it competition he enjoyed?
“Well I mean I think everyone wants to be number one and having said that it was very unfortunate that myself and Ray were around at the same time,” says Shilton with a note of regret in his voice despite the high-level of achievement reached by both men in their careers.
“I think Don Revie preferred Ray to me, whereas Sir Alf [Ramsey] and Bobby Robson preferred me. The deciding thing was Ray retiring – he didn’t want to be number two and then Chris Woods came in as my understudy.
“Some goalkeepers and some players need competition more than others, whereas some are able to gain confidence by saying ‘I’m number one there’s no competition’ but still manage to motivate themselves to improve by themselves.”
When pressed over whether he preferred being the sole number one or having that competition from another ‘keeper, Shilton concedes that Clemence was probably healthy for his career.
“I would have preferred to be number one under Don Revie and not have three years in the wilderness, that being said I knew Ray Clemence was a great ‘keeper.
“Still I think if you have some competition behind you that helps you from becoming lethargic; it’s always a good thing in a team I feel.”
Shilton wearing his least favourite England jersey in 1988
1988: The keeper that picked the ball out the English net
Despite the competition from Clemence, Shilton ended up playing in two European Championships and three World Cups for his country. But we all remember one particular game from 1988 and as our fans need cheering up, it’s only fair to ask Shilton about the last time Ireland were in the European Championships.
Ireland were playing in their first ever match at a major tournament and Shilton was earning his 99th cap for England. Ray Houghton scored our first goal in our first match against our nearest rivals. What does Shilton remember of that landmark occasion?
“We should have scored!” says Shilton laughing, “Gary Lineker didn’t have a good day and missed a couple of chances that he normally would have scored.”
Shilton goes on to recount Houghton’s looping header in the sixth minute of the match.
“The Ireland goal, there wasn’t much I could do. I had no chance, ball was crossed over and then sent back and it looped in the far corner.
“It was fated that we were going to get beat that day, though we probably have ourselves to blame. That Ireland side was a very good team too, they proved that.”
The tournament didn’t get any better for Shilton.
“It wasn’t a great memory for me and it was even a worse memory for my 100th game and getting beat 3-1 by Holland and I wore the worst jersey I ever wore in my life for England. They were not the greatest two memories of my career!”
Irish fans don’t let him forget either.
“I always get reminded of that goal. It’s one of those ones I always get.”
Despite that, he’s complimentary of Jack Charlton’s Irish team.
“In 1990 we had a tough game against Eire too and drew 1-1 so it was always a tough game!”
Shilton holds his country’s record for international appearances at 125 caps
Can England do it this time?
With a team that could boast Bryan Robson, Glenn Hoddle, John Barnes, Chris Waddle and Gary Lineker in 1988 and reached the World Cup semi-finals in 1990, clearly England were a much better side than currently, surely they have no hope?
“In 1988 we had a bit of a nightmare so I wouldn’t say that we were a particularly good side at the time. In 1990 we got to the semis and it was a World Cup, not just a European Championship,” says Shilton before elaborating, “the England team at the moment is still in a transitional period with Roy Hodgson. He’s building for the World Cup in two years and how far they’ve got now is a bonus. He needs to start bringing in younger players – I think you’ll see some changes after this tournament and some young players coming in.”
Shilton is optimistic for two years’ time in Brazil as England have the ‘keeper and strikers to do well.
“Hodgson’s got the base of what we talked about earlier in young Joe Hart, Welbeck and Rooney – that young base of players in vital positions.”
So it’s impossible for England to win this year?
“Nothing’s impossible… ” Shilton pauses to think, “nothings impossible, but it will be a tremendous effort if they do.
“Getting in the semis would be something that would really boost the country if they do and boost the football after the last World Cup and if we beat Italy anything’s possible… certainly to win it would be something that nobody really expects.”
Italy and a legend
Today England face Italy, another country with a great legacy of goalkeepers – Dino Zoff, Walter Zenga, Gianluca Pagliuca, Angelo Peruzzi and now Buffon.
Is it one of the all-time great goalkeepers that Rooney and co will have overcome?
“Yes definitely!” answers Shilton with surprising enthusiasm about Buffon. “He’s had injury problems over the last few years but he has always impressed me because of his physique and his solidness and agility. He seems to be what great ‘keepers are all about.”
Shilton will be watching and hoping, “It’s going to be fascinating to watch him and watch Joe Hart. Hopefully it will be one of those games and those moments that Joe Hart stamps his authority on world football.”
If he does he will be living up to some pretty big names that protected the English goal in the past, like Shilton himself.
Peter Shilton was promoting EA SPORTS UEFA EURO 2012, available to download via FIFA 12 on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. Visitwww.EA.com/UK/Football/euro12 for more information.