Thursday, 5 May 2011

An Interview With Peter Shilton

*This interview was conducted for, and originally featured on,*

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to interview footballing legend and England's all-time most capped player Peter Shilton. The goalkeeper who played 125 times for England and made over 1000 club appearances took time to talk about his illustrious playing career, his brief foyer into management, Joe Hart's future and gives advice for all aspiring goalkeepers.

Having made 125 appearances for England and over 1000 club appearances, what would you consider to be the proudest moment of your career?

It's very difficult to say. I played for 30 years, 20 years with England. It's very difficult to say the proudest moment. I think when I made my England début in 1970 against West Germany at Wembley, that was a great moment because you know you are a full international. It was more special because I had actually played for England schoolboys, England youth team and the England Under-23s so I kind of got the full set and not many players have done that. So having gone through the full set-up on the way to becoming a full international was a great feeling, that was a very proud moment.

Obviously getting to the semi-final of the World Cup in 1990 and getting so close to the final too. That was the best we, as a country, have ever done away from England so that was great. And I think winning two European Cups with Nottingham Forest was an incredible achievement. Then, of course, getting 125 caps for England, which is still the record. I think those four things were really great moments.

Are there any games that particularly stick in your mind for good or bad reasons?

I think when you are a goalkeeper, you are very lucky if you are remembered for great saves or great games. Over a period of time, saves get forgotten and you become remembered for the not-so-good moments. Obviously you have in years in gone by, the save by Gordon Banks against Pele, the save by Jim Montgomery for Sunderland against Leeds in the FA Cup – saves like that are remembered by fans.

I was quite lucky because there are a couple of saves I made which people still talk about. One was for England against Scotland in 1973 which was a massive game at Wembley. We were 1-0 up with ten minutes to go and it was a shot from Kenny Dalglish, I was going with my left arm but I realised I wasn't going to get there so I brought my right arm over and I just managed to push it away. There is a photo of that with the ball right in my hand which is on the front-cover of my autobiography. Also, at club level, when Nottingham Forest one the First Division in my first full season there, we got a 0-0 draw at Coventry to clinch the title. I made a tremendous reflex save from a forward named Ferguson and people still come up to me and talk about it. Those are the moments which stick in my mind and it is nice as a goalkeeper to have these things that people remember.

In terms of games people bring up. My first chance to get to a World Cup was in 1973 when we had to beat Poland in Wembley to qualify. We ended up drawing 1-1 and their goal was a bit dodgy - the ball went under my body and people still bring up that game now. It is remembered because they had a goalkeeper called Jan Tomaszewski who had one of those nights where he was very fortunate but also brilliant. I think Brian Clough nicknamed him 'the clown' in the television studio afterwards and people remember that. Even though in 1990 we went to Poland and got a 0-0 draw to qualify for the World Cup in Italy, and I had a blinder that night, nobody remembers that, they always bring up the 1973 game. But that is the nature of goalkeeping.

Having made over 100 appearances for five different clubs, is there one that you remember particularly fondly?

Well the most successful was the three years I spent at Forest which were incredible. I mean, you couldn't write the script – winning two league cup, two championships, two European Cups and the Super Cup by beating Barcelona. In terms of success, that was a great memory.

But obviously Leicester are my home-town club. I was 10-years old watching them on the terraces. I trained from the age of 10 at the club, signed as an apprentice at 15, made my début at 16 and I think I am still the youngest player to play for them. I took over for Gordon Banks there and then left for a record fee of £250,000. So Leicester is always going to be the club I support.

There is Southampton too. I was there for five years. We had three semi-finals; two league cup, one FA Cup and were runners up in what is now the Premier League. Although we didn't actually win anything, I had a successful time there. But at every club I played I would like to think I did a really good job for them and gave it 100% and I can always go back to with my head held high.

As you played under several legendary managers, who would you single out as the best or most influential on you?

For England I would say Sir Alf Ramsay. He is England's best manager. Although I have great fondness for Bobby Robson. He picked me for eight years and I would like to think I did a good job for him and he enabled me to get the record number of caps. But Sir Alf was a bit special.

And then there was Brian Clough. I know later on he had his problems, but when I worked with him at Forest he was at his peak and he was brilliant. I would say those two, Alf and Clough, were fantastic but I have a lot of fondness for Bobby Robson too.

Was management not something you wanted to stay in after you finished playing?

I did have the three and a half years at Plymouth which were very successful. We really changed the team around. When I joined they were the lowest scorers in all four divisions and within my second full season we finished third in the league and were the highest scorers in all four division and the three players I bought scored 65 goals between them. Unfortunately we lost in play-offs to the team who finished sixth, 12 points below us. Such is the nature of the play-offs.

Although I signed a new contract, within six months I had fallen out with the chairmen and I never got back into it and that is probably my biggest regret – having not got back into management and having another go at it. I never say no to anything but I am involved with so many other things now but I did always feel that managing was the main thing I was going to do because of the great managers I played under and all the experience I had. The chairman at Plymouth I didn't get on with. I have to say, at the time I did have my own problem which I don't want to go in to, but the chairman at the time had five managers in five years after me. He was not easy to work for so I was lucky to get three and a half years I did, really. But I have to take some of the responsibility myself because I had problems in the background which eventually surfaced.

It is 25 years since the infamous 'Hand of God' moment, is this still something that you harbour any anger or annoyance towards?

Well, I do a lot of speaking now around the world and it is a great incident for me to speak to people about and have a bit of fun with it. People always ask me if I think about it. The answer is no but people remind me about it a lot! Obviously it was an incident when the world's greatest player cheated and got away with it and it was the referee and the linesmen's fault. It's happened before, it's happened since and it happens with goalkeepers too who pull the back from behind the line. That sort of thing is a natural reaction sometimes. But it is what happens after the match. Do you admit to it and apologise? That is the one thing that Maradona has never done and I think he has probably lost a lot of respect for that.

Do you think your record number of caps will ever be surpassed?

I think it will be difficult in the modern game but you can never say never. It has got to be somebody who starts very young. It will be hard for it to be striker to do it because they get to an age of 30 and then usually struggle to stay in the team. David Beckham was getting close but at the end of the day he needs to be playing week-in-week-out at the top level to get back in the England team and I think that maybe that might all be passed him now. I think it will be very difficult for anyone in the modern game, I have to say that.

What are your opinions on Joe Hart? Is he the future for England in goal?

I think Joe Hart has done well since getting the shirt after the World Cup. Hindsight is a great thing and people may think he was the right choice for the World Cup but I think before the World Cup Robert Green was the right choice. Unfortunately it didn't work out but it was right that he got his chance.

It's early days for Joe. He has confidence and he has some big games ahead of him. He has to make sure he doesn't make many errors, if he does avoid that then I can see him staying there for a long time. He will make mistakes but he needs to make sure that he doesn't make too many or make them too often.

What advice would you give to young, aspiring goalkeepers reading this?

Goalkeepers are born I think. You have to the right ability and personality to take the criticism and to overcome mistakes. As a goalkeeper, you are kinda part of the team but you're not at the same time so you have to get use to that. I would say as a youngster, work really hard and try to develop your technique. It is not all about agility, reflexes and diving around at full length, there is a lot more technique to it. Unfortunately there is not as much coaching of that in the modern game as there should be. But if you can try and get some good coaching that will give you the basics and then work hard build up your game from there.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...

1 comment:

  1. He is right there aren't a lot of goalkeepers that they are remembered because of their saves. It is quite weird but people remember well goals.


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