Peter Shilton

Former Player Remembers: Peter Shilton

Drawing on his huge store of memories, former England international Peter Shilton talked to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his memories connected with his time at Filbert Street.
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Between 1966 and 1974, goalkeeper Peter Shilton played 339 games, (including the 1969 FA Cup Final), for his home town club Leicester City. He won the first 20 of his record 125 England caps while at Filbert Street. He went on to win host of domestic and European honours as well as being a World Cup semi-finalist in 1990. He was PFA Player of the Year 10 times and inducted into the English Players Hall of Fame. He is also an MBE and an OBE.

Peter’s first experience of Filbert Street was as a young fan standing on the terraces at the Double Decker end of the old Popular Side, watching the young Gordon Banks. He started training at Filbert Street from the age of about 11.

 “I am proud that whilst I was at Leicester I played for England at every level: schoolboy, youth, under-18, under-23 and then as a full international. I made my Leicester City debut (in May 1966) as a 16 year-old apprentice against Everton when Gordon (Banks) was on England duty. I’d already played in front of 23,000 at Filbert Street in the English Schools Trophy final and in front of 90,000 at Wembley for England Schoolboys. On my debut I didn’t want to make a mistake. The Filbert Street crowd was great to me. They made me feel good and I had a solid game. We won 3-0. I was really pleased with it.”

Nearly a year later the Club sold Banks to Stoke City, having decided to make Peter the first team goalkeeper.

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Peter Shilton

“It was a difficult one. I was 17 and because there were clubs wanting to buy me I didn’t want to stay in the reserves for two or three years because Gordon was still England’s best so the Club made the decision to sell Gordon. Part of it might have been a financial consideration."

Six months later, Peter scored the only goal in his 1,249 games for club and country.

“It was in the last two minutes of a game at Southampton (in October 1967). We were 4-1 up and I didn’t know I’d scored. It was a misty dark winter’s day. I kicked the ball down the middle and I lost sight of it. I saw big Mike Stringfellow chasing it and I thought that it was him who had scored. I thought I’d just done a big kick. In the dressing room the lads were saying I’d scored. I thought they were taking the mickey. We had to catch a train back to Leicester at about five o’clock and it wasn’t until I saw it on the black and white news when I got home that I knew I’d scored. Nobody remembers my goal though because the week before, Pat Jennings had scored against Alex Stepney at Old Trafford and that was on Match of the Day.”

Peter then recalled Leicester City’s run to 1969 FA Cup Final.

In the dressing room the lads were saying I’d scored. I thought they were taking the mickey. We had to catch a train back to Leicester at about five o’clock and it wasn’t until I saw it on the black and white news when I got home that I knew I’d scored!

Peter Shilton

“I vividly remember the fifth round tie against Liverpool. We drew 0-0 at Filbert Street. Nobody gave us a chance when we went to Anfield. I saved a penalty in the first half in front of the Kop.  Andy Lochhead scored with a header about 10 minutes to go, our only chance of the match.

"We got to the Final by winning most of our games 1-0, including the goal three minutes from the end of semi-final at Hillsborough against West Brom. Then we lost 1-0 at Wembley. We probably had the better chances on the day in a close game. It was absolutely devastating to lose. I really wanted to win the FA Cup. It was the only trophy I never won!”

At this time, the Filbert Street pitch was notorious.

“Because of the Double Decker, the sun never reached that end of the pitch. The mud at one end of the ground would be twice as deep as the mud at the other end. After rain, one end would be like a quagmire. It was difficult for goalkeeper.  You needed to wear different studs for each end. You really needed to know what boots to put on before the kick off. If you put in long studs and then lost the toss and have to go to the other end, you would be scuppered. To avoid this problem, sometimes a team would agree to toss up before the game and then have a mock toss up on the pitch at kick-off. Some teams didn’t agree to this though, which was stupid. This meant I’d sometimes be tying up my laces when they were attacking after kick-off."

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Peter Shilton

In 1974, Peter wore his distinctive white goalkeeper’s shirt in the FA Cup Semi-Final defeat against Liverpool.

“I wore this shirt in loads of games. In the replay at Villa Park, Keegan ran onto a long kick through the middle. He was watching the ball as it came over his head. He just took a chance and volleyed it into the top corner of the net. It was a superb goal. I was about three or four yards off my line. I thought he was going to control it and that I would have to smother it. I’d got my angle right. But it was an unstoppable shot. On ‘Match of the Day’, Jimmy Hill said, ‘I’m not sure about Shilton wearing that white jersey because Keegan saw him out of the corner of his eye’.  Nonsense! If he’d have done that, he would have been Pele, Maradona and Van Basten all rolled into one!”

Peter signed for Stoke City early the next season.

“I left because we just didn’t look as though we were good enough to win something. There was a good replacement in Mark Wallington. He was a top keeper who did brilliantly at Leicester for ten years. Also, the Club got good money for me which could help make them into a top side. I like to think I helped Mark step into my shoes.  I had something to do with him signing from Walsall and then I worked with him for 18 months so he was ready for the first team.”

Alf Ramsey wanted to find a number two for Gordon and picked me and Ray Clemence for the East Germany game and I got the nod.

Peter Shilton

While at Leicester, Peter won his first England cap in 1970 against East Germany.

“It was the first game after the Mexico World Cup. I’d been to Mexico as part of the 28 man squad, but hadn’t made the final 22. Alf Ramsey wanted to find a number two for Gordon and picked me and Ray Clemence for the East Germany game and I got the nod.

“The first thing I did in the game was to kick the ball down the pitch and we scored. We won 3-1. Their goal was a shot from the edge of the box. I’d got it covered, but then it hit Bobby Moore on the knee and it was deflected a yard or so past me into the net. In normal circumstances I would have had a go at the defender for this, but because of the stature of Bobby, I just said, ‘Don’t worry Bobby!’"

Peter then shared some thoughts on another Leicester City legend, his international team mate Gary Lineker.

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Peter Shilton

“He was my England room-mate for seven years. We were always good friends. He recently said on TV that he remembers watching me at Filbert Street as a youngster, then he played with me and when he retired he was watching me play again!

“He wasn’t a great dribbler or crosser of the ball but he was in the box scoring loads of goals which is the hardest thing to do in football. The second hardest thing is goalkeeping. If you’ve got a good goalkeeper and someone who scores goals you will always have a bit of a chance.

“We have another connection. As a lad, I stood behind Banksy’s goal at Wembley for the 1963 Cup Final. Leicester lost and I went home in tears. When I told Links this, he told me that he had stood behind my goal at Wembley in the 1969 FA Cup Final and that when Leicester lost again, he also went home in tears.”

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