Absolutely nobody is immune from feeling low. On the face of it, footballer Peter Shilton achieved it all. Yet, as he tells Jim Pollard, even England's most capped footballer has had his difficult moments - and we're not talking about Maradona's 'hand of God'.
England's most capped player, the world's most capped goalkeeper, over one thousand football league games, OBE, MBE, League Championship medal, twice a European Cup winner, Players' Player of the Year, the list goes on.
For Peter Shilton it is all about goals. Not just saving them but setting them. 'I played for 30 years, 20 with England and I did it by setting goals,' he says. 'As far as England were concerned I wanted to be in the schoolboys team, then the youth team, then the under-23s (as it was then) and then the full national team.'
Those goals seem to have been no sooner set than achieved in the early part of his career — he first played for Leicester City at 16 and for England at 21. Leicester considered him so promising they were happy to sell England's World Cup-winning goalkeeper — and Shilton's hero — Gordon Banks to Stoke. Banks remained England's number one but after the car accident which forced his premature retirement in 1972, it was assumed that Shilton would once again step into his boots. The 23 year-old looked set to break all Banks's records and more.
It didn't quite work out like that because of the emergence of Liverpool's new young goalkeeper Ray Clemence - pictured with Peter, right - and the appointment of Don Revie as England manager. As a result, the low-point in Shilton's international career came at the time when he should have been at his peak.
'Revie preferred Ray,' says Peter. 'It was as simple as that. For three years I didn't get a look in. That was my lowest. I was frustrated and aggrieved. Revie said there was nothing between me and Ray yet he never gave me a chance to show what I could do. Brian Clough was always a big fan of mine and he didn't get on at all with Don Revie so maybe there was something in that.'
At one point, Peter refused to tour with England and asked not be considered for the national team again. He changed his mind.
The turning point came when Ron Greenwood became England manager. 'He started alternating me and Ray and then he said that he'd pick one of us for the 1982 World Cup. I remember us going out to training and we knew that whoever Ron went up to first was going to be dropped. He went up to Ray. I have to say Ray showed incredible mental strength. He was terrific. He just got on with it. I was friends with Ray but obviously I was elated.' England's first choice goalkeeper. It had taken Shilton ten years to achieve that particular goal.
But why did he want to be a goalie in the first place? 'I think you're born a keeper. I always wanted to be the goalkeeper from the first moment someone put two coats down in the playground and said "who's going in goal?"
To know what you want to do in life is a great gift. But for sportsmen, it's a gift that time can take away. Shilton traces his gambling and financial problems, about which he speaks very honestly in his autobiography, to this period.
'There have always been card schools at football clubs and always will be,' he says. 'I was so involved in what I was doing, so into football, that that side of it didn't really seem to be important. In some ways I used it as a release but without realising it took over, more towards the end of my career when I knew I was going to finish. In my mind, maybe it was bit of uncertainty about what was going to happen although eventually, of course, I did get into management.'
Compulsive gamblers often deny the existence of luck. Shilton knows only too well how important it is. He talks of the bad luck of the 1990 World Cup semi-final — the highlight of his career — when Andreas Brehme's free-kick hit Paul Parker's shin and looped over Peter's head or when Chris Waddle's shot bounced back off the post in extra-time. The good luck of never having had a serious injury.
He remembers how he got his opportunity for England's schoolboys. 'I played terribly in the trial so I was only substitute for the final trial. But the goalkeeper got injured so I got the chance to play before 90,000 people at 15. And I played a blinder. That was a lucky break.'
What about the 1990 penalty shoot-out? 'The main factor in a penalty shoot-out is luck again. You need to stay calm and focussed but the biggest thing you need is luck. Penalties are often scored straight down the middle as Gary Lineker did in the quarter-final against Cameroon so I'd try to wait as long as I could before committing myself. If you just guess and go that makes it all luck.'
The ups and downs of his career have made Shilton an in-demand motivational speaker. 'There are similarities between business and sport, in the pressures involved and in the fitness aspect too. Being fit will keep you mentally sharp and people forget that. As a goalkeeper you need to be good at organising the people in front of you and motivating them. You need to see what's going on and react to the threats. Just like a good manager in business.'
Peter is still saving penalties at 56 in corporate events and recently played in front of 30,000 fans at Derby in a testimonial. Only a hamstring injury kept him out of the recent SoccerAid fundraiser. 'I'm still very professional about my fitness. I stay in trim as I always did. I noticed I'd lost strength in my legs so I've been doing some work to build them back up. I do a lot of running, stretching and ball work.
Why not get a check-up? If you don't service your car it will eventually break-down. The same is true of your body.'
Regrets can be very damaging to emotional well-being. Does Peter have any about not playing in today's big money soccer? 'You can never turn the clock back and, since we're talking about mental health, I would stress that,' he says. 'The money is in a different league these days, of course, but I have special memories of the 60s and 70s which players today don't have. There wasn't the same celebrity attitude and media exposure. We had a bit more freedom.
'I think I enjoyed my career more than many players will do these days even though they will end up millionaires.' Money isn't everything — probably the best mental health advice you can get.
Page created on June 8th, 2006
Page updated on January 17th, 2010