Peter Shilton: Penalties, Pressure and Italia 90

Peter Shilton had a career spanning over 30 years with eleven different clubs and won two European cups, but what will we remember him for? Italia 90.

England’s most capped international footballer knows all too well that you’re only reminisced for being a hero or a villain.

It does not matter one jot if you’ve played terribly all game. The very best turn games on their head and make their mark.

“The nature of great players is that they change the course of games,” said Shilton. “You can’t just be a skilful player, you have to be a strong character too.

“I played hundreds of games, but I know I will always be remembered for that World Cup penalty shootout against Germany in Italia 90. We lost that and people will always hold that memory, despite me not having a chance to saving any of the penalties.  You have to be skillful as a footballer but essentially it all hinges down to luck too.

“David Seaman will always be known for that goal against Brazil. Was it a fluke or not? Who cares it went in the top corner and nobody will ever forget it.”

In 1990, England faced the ultimate heartbreak when they lost on penalties to West Germany. They may have lost the shootout but the iconic image of the match was during the game when Paul Gascoigne bawled his eyes out when he realised he wouldn’t be playing in a World Cup final.

World Cups are cruel by nature. They mentally drain players. West Germany had the mental steel to overcome England when it truly mattered and it scarred the Three Lions for generations to come. Peter Shilton faced England’s first ever penalty shootout at a major tournament, little was he to know that it would become such a hoodoo for the nation.

Joe Hart has already faced two penalty shootouts himself for the England U21’s and as a full international.  England know that should they escape their group and get to the latter stages that they could have to step up and show their mental bottle from six yards.

“You have to believe that the only thing that exists is the pitch,” said Shilton. “The crowd doesn’t exist, you just help the rest of the players, whether you are busy or quiet during a game. Joe Hart gives players confidence. He talks to his team, I like that. Goalkeepers are crazy. I say different.

“What can he do to improve though? Well he needs to stop diving so early in games, especially if England do have to face another penalty shootout.

“He has the ability, but now he needs to show he has the mental strength to be World Class. He isn’t there yet. We haven’t had a truly sensational keeper for years and he could be that. The pace of the game has changed, there is a direct shooting policy from all players. They have no fear in having a pop from 30 yards. Joe must be ready for that.”

England know that they are already under huge pressure to deliver against Uruguay. It is a case of do or bust and Hodgson‘s charges will be feeling the heat.

There has been a lot of emphasis on how to perfectly prepare players and how to make them truly read for the World’s biggest stage. But can you ever truly prepare a player for these pivotal moments?

“You can do all the statistical analysis in the world, you can have a sports psychologist, train in extra layers of clothing, but you can’t train instinct”, said Shilton.

“You’ve either got it or you haven’t. Whether it is the striker having the nerve to give the keeper the eyes or the goalkeeper having the ability to put off the centre forward, you can’t train someone how to do that.

“If England progress to the latter stages of the World Cup and the match hinges on one moment they are more than capable of winning. Why? Because as Gary Lineker once said, it’s not that hard. All you have to do is treat 80,000 fans just like a Sunday morning on Hackney Marshes.”

England’s most capped player Peter Shilton was speaking at Betfair’s Perfect Penalty Masterclass, teaching football bloggers how to take the perfect penalty ahead of the World Cup in Brazil.