Hackney Marshes closely follows Wembley Stadium as being deeply established in the English game and is heavily ingrained in English society as being synonymous with the working class roots football is embedded in.
As Roy Hodgson’s England squad prepared for their opening World Cup encounter with Italy, England goalkeeping legend Peter Shilton was down at the famous playing fields to school a select few, including myself on how to take the perfect penalty.
So how do you take the ‘perfect penalty’ you may ask, and more pertinently from Shilton’s point of view how do you go about saving one?
“Be positive, be confident, be single minded, and believe—if you’re a goalkeeper—that you are going to save one.” And on how his successor in the England goalkeeping jersey should approach spot kicks in Brazil:
“It’ll be interesting to see if Joe Hart changes his tactics a little bit. I think he has to. You can’t just keep going early [off the line] all the time, but then you can get lucky. That’s the nature of shoot outs.”
Personally, Shilton’s words of wisdom, which included having a positive mentality, visualising the goal and using mind games to outdo your opponent did seem to help as I dispatched all but one of my spot kicks, however the same could not be said for some of the other bloggers and writers at the event.
Having made over 1,000 appearances for both club and country Shilton stressed the importance for England to hit the target and make the keeper do the work. This is a nation that has only triumphed once in their last eight penalty deciders dating back to Italia ’90.
“I think the biggest thing is not defeating ourselves with poor penalties, missing the goal and letting the pressure get to us. If the keeper makes a save, fair enough, but let’s not beat ourselves with a poor penalty.”
Talk soon turned to the inevitable, the World Cup which was beginning later that evening with curtain-raiser, Brazil vs Croatia. After all, Shilton does hold the record for the most clean sheets at football’s chief international tournament, alongside Frenchman Fabian Barthez with a flawless ten game impregnable streak.
However at this years tournament current World Cup holder and Spain number one Iker Casillas could usurp this feat with four more clean sheets of his own. Shilton spoke before Casillas’ contributed to Spain’s insipid 5-1 defeat to the Netherlands, not surprisingly keen this record stayed intact; “I hope not. He could do, but I hope not. I’m quite proud of that.”
After muscling out Gordon Banks in the Leicester side as a 16 year old, Shilton went on to make 125 International appearances, playing at the Euros in 1980 and 1988 as well as three World Cups in 1982, 1986 and 1990. Despite not imposing himself fully on the national stage until later in his career, Shilton’s longevity is a trait to admire and one which has given him a rather unique take on this era’s set of goalkeepers.
“The pace of the game. I think it’s very fast now: from one end of the pitch to another. I think the balls are lighter now. You can get used to the balls moving faster but they’re still a bit more difficult to catch. They move in the air. Set plays: now every free-kick you get is a direct shot on goal. It never used to be like that. If you got in a dangerous position on the edge of the box you’d have a little pop, or they’d play it in, and someone would have a shot. Now, they just want to shoot every time, even if they’re 30 yards out. Set plays have always been difficult but I think maybe now they’re probably as difficult as they have been for keepers.”
Ability, bottle, nerve these are three qualities Shilton felt are integral for a World Cup goalkeeper to possess if they desire to become a great. He followed this up by revealing;
The crowd don’t exist: wherever the ball or the opposition is on the pitch you’ve just got to keep it out of the net. Plus you want to be helping the rest of the players. You want to be a leader as well as a keeper which is what I like about Joe Hart. He does take responsibility and he does show a bit of confidence, and I like that in goalkeepers. You need to give your players a bit of confidence. You need to organise them because you can see everything, and see things early.
“You do rely on your defenders. If the people around you let you down, you could concede, but basically, you have to deal with keeping that ball out of the net. That’s all there is to it, whatever it takes. Good talking: that was my first line of defence, my talking and my relationship with the defenders. Not just rollicking them. I used to say, “what a great header that was”, “what a great tackle that was”, building them up. I used to walk off the pitch sometimes and I hadn’t had a shot to save, and people used to say “oh, you had it easy today”. No I didn’t. I stopped three or four situations happening just by talking, but you didn’t see it. That was a good game for me.”
England’s most capped player feels the likes of Manuel Neuer of Germany and Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon will be the most solid and stoic of the lot. But he did make a point of picking out Chilean keeper Claudio Bravo, his admiration coming from his unerring display against England at Wembley where Bravo was passing the ball over 60 or 70 yards – likened to Glenn Hoddle in his prime.
All in all this was a day to celebrate and take in all it had to offer with England legend Shilton leading the way with his expert insight.
Peter Shilton was speaking at the Betfair’s Perfect Penalty masterclass, teaching bloggers how to take the perfect penalty ahead of this summers World Cup.