Shilton’s Eng fears turn true
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Rustenburg – England goalkeeping legend Peter Shilton’s concerns about the “inconsistency” of that country’s current resources between the sticks have come home to roost.
A wince-inducing gaffe by Robert Green, the West Ham No 1 who let a tame, two-bouncing shot from the United States’ Clint Dempsey squeeze through his grasp for the underdogs’ equaliser in a 1-1 Group C stalemate at the Royal Bafokeng here on Saturday night, has earned howls of derision in the British and South African media alike.
And Shilton, who had some 20 years as an England ‘keeper in a career that also spanned three World Cups, had warned Sport24 only this week that his country’s prospects were “unsettled” in the last line of defence.
Shilton is to attend the later stages of the tournament and pen some columns for this website, and he told me in a telephone interview from his English home that “none of our three goalkeepers has the right to call himself first-choice”.
The Leicester-born OBE-holder, now 60, was part of a golden era in the trade in England, started by Gordon Banks and extending into the likes of Shilton, Ray Clemence and Joe Corrigan, although the last-named player’s opportunities were severely limited by the prowess of Shilton and Clemence.
But in recent years England have been plagued by a series of true howlers from the likes of David Seaman, Scott Carson, Paul “Misses” Robinson and also David “Calamity” James, the 39-year-old veteran who may now return to favour with coach Fabio Capello for the Cape Town game against Algeria on Friday after Green’s costly error.
The other squad option, from a more youthful perspective, is Birmingham City’s Joe Hart (loaned to them for 2009/10 from Manchester City) although Shilton says he has “come a bit from nowhere” and doesn’t necessarily offer a permanent solution either.
“The ability is there with Hart, but nobody has really grabbed the mantle. It’s been a problem for some time: there are no easy ways out of it, especially because players like Robinson and James have had some very good matches, only to spoil things with bad mistakes here and there.”
Who is the goalkeeper at the 2010 World Cup more broadly whom Shilton has the most confidence in from a trustworthiness point of view?
“I would nominate Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon. He’s very good; he has a vital, dominating aura about him and has proved himself over the years. Good physique … and he can’t really be called weak in any department of goalkeeping.
“I also liked what I saw from Spain’s Iker Casillas at Euro 2008, when they won the tournament.” (Casillas kept clean sheets from the quarterfinals onward.)
Shilton was at the centre of one of the biggest flashpoints in World Cup history at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, when Argentina’s Diego Maradona beat him in the air for a goal by directing it into the net with his unspotted hand – Maradona’s “Hand of God” moment.
The England ‘keeper says he still wouldn’t shake Maradona’s hand if he were to bump into him – the eccentric attacking legend is Argentina’s coach at the South African jamboree.
“I would love there to be some closure, to move on from it. But he’s never actually apologised properly, which is something (France’s Thierry) Henry at least did after eliminating Ireland from qualification with a handball of his own more recently.
“He’s used different excuses … just one was to somehow link it to the Falklands War. I thought we were supposed to be talking about a football match.”
Shilton says he “can’t wait” for his maiden experience of South Africa.
“I’m so keen to savour the unique atmosphere, the people, the country’s renowned sights. There won’t be much time away from the football, but if I can find a golf course I won’t be grumbling.
“I’m trying to improve my handicap, which presently varies between 16 and 18. But I’m inconsistent, you see … a bit like England’s goalkeepers.”
Rob is Sport24's chief writer
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