Hands and Feet
By Truro12
Thursday 09 Sep 2010 10:49:00
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The life and times of Peter Leslie Shilton by MGM Truro



“What can you say about Peter Shilton? Peter Shilton is Peter Shilton and has been since the year dot”


Bobby Robson’s typically confusing take on the Leicester greengrocer’s son makes perfect sense to those who have witnessed a career develop from Leicester City trainee to England No.1. Always his own man, Shilton has been driven by professionalism, success and the rewards that this brings in equal measure, the last off the training pitch and the last to leave the card-school. He suggests in his autobiography that this came as a result of watching his father, Les, working long hours and running several shops around Leicester council estates in the fifties. Now a successful after-dinner speaker, Shilton is set to appear in the forthcoming series of Strictly Come Dancing, and despite being almost sixty he is certain to remain one of the fittest and without one of the most competitive.


The Peter Leslie Shilton sory began above a Leicester off-license on September 18th 1949, where May Shilton gave birth to a 9lb 4oz boy, their second. The newborn Peter already filling the goal it would appear. Peter’s father ran a handful of shops around Leicester and his three sons, Tony, Peter and Graham, helped him wherever they could, but his middle son showed signs of being a promising athlete from an early age rather than a budding grocer, “the onion bag” taking on a whole new relevance as young Peter demonstrated an extraordinary ability between the sticks.


First asked if he would like to play in goal at Court Crescent Primary School, Branstone, the youngster was soon infatuated with the art of goalkeeping, a green keeping sweater and heavy leather ball his prized possessions as he spent hours practising in the back garden of the family home. Despite an accomplished outfield player, he loved the pressure that came with the individual perfection required by a top goalkeeper. By the time he was attending King Richard III Boys School in the early sixties, he was also training with his beloved Leicester City – and the precocious talent was well know to first teamers such as Colin Appleton, Franck McLintock and legendary England ‘keeper Gordon Banks. The first page of Shilton’s autobiography recalls the day that City coach George Dewis had the first team failing en masse to beat the thirteen-year-old prodigy, and it was only a matter of time before the youngster made his debut, it finally arriving in May 1966 in a game against Everton.


By the summer of 1967, the driven Shilton had refused to sign professional forms with City unless he was guaranteed first team football and, to the surprise of many, World Cup winner Gordon Banks was allowed to join Stoke City, seventeen year old Shilton handed the number one jersey that he would keep for seven years before following Banks to Stoke in 1974. In 286 games for City, Shilton had been the youngest ever goalkeeper in an FA Cup Final, City losing 1-0 to Manchester City, won his first England caps and even scored a goal in Leicester’s 5-1 thrashing of Southampton at The Dell.


The desire to keep pushing himself had come to the fore and, having been widely questioned over his failure to save Jan Domarski’s effort in the crucial World Cup qualifier against Poland, and overlooked by Don Revie in favour of Ray Clemence following Gordon Banks’ career ending car accident, Shilton felt it was time to move, following his mentor Banks to Stoke City.


Shilton was now often seen wearing an all-white Admiral strip, the keeper keen to emulate hero Lev Yashin while continuing to crave success and adulation, however, the move to The Potteries proved in many respects to be a non-eventful prelude to Shilton’s most successful period, at Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest.


Having opted not to join Manchester United in the summer of 1976 because of a failure to agree terms (Shilton wanted to be the highest paid player at the club), he joined Brian Clough at newly promoted Forest, Shilton playing a staring role as the Nottingham club won the League, conceding only 18 goals all season and picking up the PFA Player of the Year award in the process.


While things couldn’t be going much better on the pitch, off it Shilton was battling with the all too familiar footballer’s demons of drink, gambling and women, a much publicised drink-driving conviction coming as a result of a country lane incident with a partially clothed woman, the “Tina” of many a terrace song at the time. Despite his trophy-rich time at Forest, the eighties saw a return of the Shilton wanderlust and in 1982 he joined friends Kevin Keegan and Alan Ball at Southampton. The 1982 World Cup was Shilton’s first at a comparatively old age of 32, and saw the keeper take the captain’s armband after the injury and suspension of Bryan Robson and Ray Wilkins in what turned out to be another disappointing tournament for the national side.


England also failed to make it to the 1984 European Championships but Shilton was by now the undisputed England No.1 after helping The Saints to a runner-up position in the First Division and a Cup semi-final. The national side did manage to quality for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, but Shilton was overshadowed by another famous Leicester son; Gary Lineker top scoring and earning a move to Catalan giants Barcelona, while Shilton was widely thought to be at fault in the infamous “Hand of God” incident which saw diminutive Diego Maradona beat Shilton to the ball with his hand.


Again, strife and media questioning of his abilities were followed closely by a change of scenery, this time to Derby County. Despite being nearly 38, this was another good move for all parties, Shilton helping the Rams to a fifth place finish in 1989 – only missing out on European football due to the ban on English teams participation in European competition post Hysel.


The Italia 1990 World Cup was the scene of Shilton’s third World Cup and his swansong as an International footballer. Despite heroics against Belgium in the second round, he was better remembered for the free-kick against Germany in the semi-final which looped over a keeper who had contended with questions over his height since childhood. Despite growing to 6 feet 1 inch, a young Shilton had spent hours dangling from the banisters at his parents home in an attempt to stretch himself, however, the only thing to be extended in Italy was the number of England caps won, now a record at 125, his final England appearance coming in the third-place play-off with hosts Italy, a game in which Shilton failed to control a back pass and was robbed by Roberto Baggio who subsequently scored.


In 1991 Derby County were relegated, and Shilton decided to make to move into management, at Plymouth Argyle in the February of 1992, now aged 42, but it was to be a turbulent period both on and off the pitch. After three years at the club, Argyle facing relegation to the bottom division, and his ailing finances splashed all over the papers, Shilton left Devon to resume a playing career at Premier League Wimbledon. Despite his 46 years, his standing in the game and level of fitness made him a credible asset, with Bolton Wanderers, Coventry and West Ham all taking the player for spells between 1995 and 1996, and it was Leyton Orient where he made his 1000th League appearance in December 1996, live on Sky.


In total, Shilton made close to 1400 first team appearances for Club and country, most at Leicester (288), Stoke (110), Forest (202), Southampton (188) and Derby (175), where he remains idolised despite the nature of his departures. Awarded the MBE in 1986 and an OBE in 1992, the prestigious PFA Order of Merit following his International retirement in 1990 and named as an inaugural member of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002, Shilton rightly received the recognition of what has been an outstanding career as an English footballer.


Vilified at times over his suggested immobility, height and lack of willingness to claim crosses, he is still largely regarding as one of the greatest ever goalkeepers, spoken in the same breath as Banks, Yashin and Zoff, while perhaps the biggest testimony is from his wife Sue who remains with him today after 40 years, the couple having two sons, Michael, a Fireman, and Sam, a midfielder who has played for Plymouth, Coventry and more recently Hinckley United.


Now a settled family man living in Warwickshire, Shilton can be found on the after-dinner speaking circuit and will be taking part in the forthcoming Strictly Come Dancing show, having enjoyed an appearance alongside Rodney Marsh for Sport Relief earlier in the year. No doubt he will be determined to win, and show that his feet are just as reliable as his hands were for over 30 years.


If you have any unique memories of Shilton at Leicester or elsewhere, why not post it on the Message Board?




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