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Peter Shilton – His Name Is Listed Under Longevity In The Oxford Dictionary

With 125 Three Lions appearances, Peter Shilton is England's most capped footballer  (Image Via Talksport)
With 125 Three Lions appearances, Peter Shilton is England’s most capped footballer (Image Via Talksport)

As a young lad growing up and playing Church soccer with my primary schoolmates, my fascination for the round ball and goalkeeping game grew along with my height.  When overseas sports coverage of football slowly grew in Australia, so did my passion to watch more keepers and how they plied their craft in the toughest and richest leagues in Europe. The first keeper that caught my eye and that of many other football fans was none other than the ageless Peter Shilton.

 His relatively small six foot one frame and dark curly locks dominated League and World football for a career spanning over 30 years and 1005 league games. Shilton still holds the record for the most caps for England with 125 unbeaten appearances for his country.

Shilton’s career commenced after the great Gordon Banks saw something in the young Leicester schoolboy as he trained with the local Foxes team. If only Banks knew that his keen eye for detail and a benefit of hindsight could have prevented his untimely end to his association with his club in preference for the young and promising Shilton. The irony of the careers of Banks and Shilton dissecting is a great one as they are arguably England’s two finest goalkeepers on record.

Shilton’s early career was filled with mixed fortunes as Leicester City was relegated from the First division in 1967, but in stark contrast to the current crop of players constantly chasing fame and fortune, Shilton showed faith and loyalty to his boyhood club that gave him opportunity. This loyalty was warmly repaid as Leicester were lucky enough to progress to the FA Cup final at Wembley and a very green Shilton proudly took part as one of its youngest participants. Sadly and surprisingly it was his only tilt at FA Cup final glory in such an illustrious career, but success certainly came his way over the countless seasons.

The endless statistical highlights litter Shilton’s career like hamburger wrappers floating in the atmosphere long after the stadium has emptied. The few that stand out for me is his fine record in 17 World Cup final appearances for England.  His record of 10 clean sheets in put in perspective as it has only ever been equaled and not eclipsed by the great French keeper Fabian Barthez. Another is when at Nottingham Forest in the First Division season of 1977-78, Shilton helped his club secure the League Championship, combining with a League Cup win at Wembley. Great achievements but what stood out was that he only conceded 18 goals in 37 league appearances in the seasons.

 You are always flirting with death when attempting to compare the players of the past to the here and now but to give a little perspective as to how impressive Shilton’s keeping prowess was that season I will compare the goals conceded to that of the four leading keepers in the EPL, Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga in season 2012-13.




Games Played

Goals Conceded

First Div. Peter Shilton




EPL Joe Hart

1.905 m



Bundesliga Manuel Neuer

1.93 m



Serie A Gianluigi Buffon




La Liga Thibaut Courtois

1.98 m



It will be argued that the quality and caliber of strikers in the First Division in 1977-78 don’t compare with the likes of the Lionel Messi; Robin van Persie, Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez but even so, food for thought considering that Shilton gives up 5 cm in height on his nearest rival, and also the advances in boots, quality of grounds, training methods.

Shilton’s career has marked by plenty of highlights that would make a healthy and entertaining YouTube package, but I still find the goal he saved on the end of a sharp header from Coventry City’s Mick Fergusson a no better example of reflex keeping. If not for the poor grainy standard definition TV days, this amazing feat of keeping would form the part of any cable network’s highlight reel to introduce the game of the week.

 Here is a poor quality YouTube version of that wonderful effort:

 Its certainly not surprising that Peter Shilton played his part in one of the most spoken contentious moments in football history…”The Hand of God” incident at the 1986 FIFA World Cup hosted by Mexico. Tension was abnormally high in the quarterfinal match up between England and Argentina only four years on from the Falkland Island conflict. Shilton played no other part on the controversy but to attempt a save by advancing out of the six yard box to greet Maradona who was running toward an awkwardly bouncing clearance from mid-fielder Stephen Hodge. Both players leapt, Shilton to punch the ball clear and Maradona seemingly to head the ball, but it was obvious from the many replays that he did in fact use his hand to score the goal that helped end England’s tournament.

The massive controversy otherwise soured a game where Diego Maradona’s brilliant and bamboozling individual effort to score Argentina’s second goal was ultimately judged years later to be the FIFA “Goal of the Century”.

Shilton will be long remembered as one of England’s finest keepers but it was his efforts despite his small stature for a keeper that inspired many young footballers of the day to choose the often thankless and much maligned position between the sticks in favor of the glamorous and predictable life of a goal driven striker.

Do yourself a favor a check out some of the vision of Peter Shilton at his best for England and his many club sides most notably Nottingham Forest and Leicester City. You wont be disappointed by what you find despite the unattractive quality and hazy television pictures of the 1960s and 70s through to the more recent 1980s.