Shilton vows to keep on saving
Mike Rowbottom joins the masses at Brisbane Road yesterday to watch the former England goalkeeper set a record which will surely stand forever
Monday 23 December 1996
That perfect circle has obsessed Shilton in a goalkeeping career that stretches back 30 years, taking in two European Cup victories, a League title and a record 125 caps for his country. It was fitting that, at the age of 47, he should mark his millennium with another clean sheet as he helped his current club, Leyton Orient, earn a 2-0 home win over their Third Division opponents, Brighton.
In truth, Shilton was hardly troubled by the troubled side currently bottom of the league. On a crisp, sunny afternoon he did not need to make a save of any description until the 28th minute in front of live television cameras, an unusually large gathering of reporters and photographers, and a 7,944 crowd at Brisbane Road desperate to cheer his every contribution.
When Orient were presented with the chance to go two up through a penalty after 65 minutes, many in the crowd chanted for the keeper to be allowed to take it. He remained coy afterwards about whether it had been an option. As it was, the kick was converted by the scorer of Orient's first goal, Dominic Naylor - a full-back whom Shilton had himself signed in a previous incarnation as player-manager of Plymouth Argyle.
It was the collapse of that particular ambition, amid publicity about his problems with drink, gambling and debt, which caused Shilton to concentrate on his playing career.
Before the inevitable post-match press conference, Shilton's agent stressed that questions should be about football, a clear warning to steer clear of questions relating to what Shilton termed his "bad publicity." He need not have worried - there was nothing but goodwill for his client yesterday.
"I was a bit overwhelmed, to be honest," Shilton said. "I've played in front of bigger crowds, but it was just the atmosphere today... I am an emotional person sometimes but I don't always show it." He gave something away as the final whistle blew, standing with both arms aloft as a big smile spread across his face.
The second-longest serving League player, Terry Paine of Southampton, retired many years ago on the figure of 824. Shilton's grand looks unlikely to be surpassed in the modern era - and he has not finished yet.
Characteristically, Shilton had wanted to see out his 1,000th game at the highest level, but he became impatient waiting for his opportunities. Now that he has seized his chance, he is not ruling out playing on until he is 50. But he confirmed that he wants eventually to return to management.
Asked to recall some of his best memories of his career, he mentioned, inevitably, playing for Brian Clough and Nottingham Forest in the years when they won the League and two European Cups in successive seasons. "They were a superb side, and I don't think they got sufficient credit for what they achieved," he said.
But his memories are dominated by a kind of internal audit which recalls with peculiar sharpness goals conceded which should not have been - the shot on his England debut which deflected off Bobby Moore, the goal he let in for Forest in the European Cup semi-final against Cologne. The pain seems almost as great in recollection.
But this footballer has always been a special one. When Shilton described his early years at Leicester City, whom he signed for as a 15-year-old, he revealed the kind of loyalties which have motivated him throughout his long career.
"I had just played for England Schoolboys. We had beaten Scotland 3-0 in front of 90,000 people at Wembley, and there were several scouts interested in me. I could have gone to Arsenal or Manchester United, but I had trained at Leicester since I was 11 and I wanted to be at a club that had given me something. My father said: "Let's do it the right way. When you are 17, you will get a decent contract."
So he signed, for the standard apprentice wage of pounds 8 per week. His subsequent career was determined by similar factors. "I played for men I could get on with and respect," he said. "It happened that way."
He feels he is a more relaxed character nowadays than the beetle-browed perfectionist he was in his early years. It comes, he says, from a broader perspective. But the intensity is still there on the field, as he stares fiercely at the action in front of him, endlessly clapping his hands and bawling out urgent instructions at even the most apparently relaxed moments. It patently means so much to him.
"When you are at the top, you take it for granted," he said. "You think it's going to go on for ever. But, when the time comes for you to stop, then it hits you. You realise that you don't want to give up."
Total appearances: 1,372 (British record). League 1,000. FA Cup 83. League Cup 102. Other 45. Full England caps 125. Under-23 13. League XI 4.
Leicester City 326 games (286 League, 1 goal). Stoke City 121 games (110 League). Nottingham Forest 272 games (202 League). Southampton 242 games (188 League). Derby County 211 games (175 League). Plymouth Argyle 43 games (34 League). Bolton Wanderers 1 game (1 League). Leyton Orient 4 games (4 League).
Honours (with Leicester City): 1969: FA Cup finalist. 1971: Second Division champions. (With Nottingham Forest): 1978: League championship, PFA Footballer of the Year. 1979: European Cup winner, League Cup winner. 1980: European Cup winner, League Cup finalist.
Top 10 League appearances: 1 Peter Shilton 1,000; 2 Terry Paine 824; 3 Tommy Hutchison 797; 4 Robbie James 782; 5 Alan Oakes 777; 6 John Trollope 770; 7 Jimmy Dickinson 764; 8 Roy Sproson 762; 9 Billy Bonds 758; 10 Ray Clemence 758.
Goals: Naylor (59) 1-0; Naylor pen (65) 2-0.
Leyton Orient (4-4-2): Shilton; Hendon, Martin, Joseph, Naylor; Ling, Channing, Warren, Heidenstrom (Chapman, 88); West (Inglethorpe, 86), McGleish. Substitute not used: Howes.
Brighton and Hove Albion (4-4-2): Rust; Smith, Allan, Hobson (Johnson, 30), Tuck; Storer, Parris (Peake, 71), Mayo, McDonald; Mundee (Baird, 65), Maskell.
Referee: G Singh (Wolverhampton).
Man of the match: Naylor.
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