Shilton ignores problems : FOOTBALL

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The Independent Online
Brentford 7

Plymouth Argyle 0

If the complexity of Peter Shilton's problems could be summed up in an instant, it was after the final whistle at Griffin Park on Saturday. How many managers, you wonder, would react to a 7-0 hammering by signing autographs on their way back from the dug-out?

It was both impressive and puzzling. His Plymouth side had just responded to the chairman's ultimatum of eight points from their next four matches with a performance of staggering ineptitude, yet Shilton seemed almost unmoved.

Brentford are no more than an average Second Division outfit, their recent poor form only marginally superior to Plymouth's. There were mitigating circumstances in that at least three regulars were missing from the Plymouth line-up, but any club that canafford to pay their manager £250,000 a year plus half of that again as a signing-on fee should be able to afford a few injuries.

And at the end, instead of storming down the touchline preparing to read the riot act, there was England's most-capped player almost diving into the arms of the nearest autograph hunter. By the time Shilton reached the tunnel, the Plymouth fans who had witnessed the club's heaviest defeat for more than 20 years, were cheering their hero all the way.

It is not just the fans who find it difficult to say no to Shilton. Dan McCauley, the chairman who lent him £100,000, and John McGovern, the former assistant who got fed up waiting for a £7,000 loan to be repaid, are proof of that. And, it seems, it is equally difficult for Shilton to say no to himself.

In keeping with what had gone before, his appearance at the post-match press conference was admirable. But in trying to explain away the defeat, Shilton merely confirmed the impression of a man who is unable to account for his losses. He bemoaned his injured and spoke of men and boys, but when it came to his own predicament he said: "I've come here to talk about the game," and that was that. There is something sad and pathetic about a manager hiding behind a 7-0 defeat.

David Webb, his opposite number, was hardly more upbeat despite the size of the victory, a further damning testament to the paucity of the opposition. But he would have taken pleasure from the sight of his fullback Martin Grainger's deadly left foot setting up five of the goals and his nimble No 9, Nick Forster, causing havoc with his pace and directness.

Webb can look forward to his turkey, but it is difficult to see where one of the finest goalkeepers the world has seen goes from here. He owes the club £50,000, which the Inland Revenue are demanding from his signing-on fee, and McCauley is running out of patience. They say goalkeepers are different, but this one's special case status is wearing alarmingly thin.

Goals: Annon (3) 1-0; Smith (8) 2-0; Taylor (48) 3-0; Forster (50) 4-0; Taylor (56) 5-0; Mundee (74) 6-0; Harvey (87) 7-0.

Brentford (4-2-4): Dearden; Hutchings, Bates, Ashby, Grainger; Ratcliffe, Smith (Mundee, 62); Harvey, Forster, Taylor, Annon. Substitutes not used: Hurdle, Fernandes (gk).

Plymouth Argyle (4-4-2): Hodge; Dawe, Comyn, Swan, Patterson; Crocker, Nugent, Burnett, Barlow; Ross (S Shilton, 62), Evans. Substitutes not used: Payne, Dungey (gk).

Referee: R J Harris (Oxford).

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