Press Centre

Sports Life Stories

  • Episode: 

    1 of 8

  • Title: 

    Peter Shilton
  • Transmission (TX): 

    Tue 17 Feb 2015
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    10.00pm - 11.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 08 2015 : Sat 14 Feb - Fri 20 Feb
  • Channel: 

  • Status: 

The information contained herein is strictly embargoed from all press use, non-commercial publication, or syndication until Tuesday February 10, 2015.
Sports Life Stories
Featuring top names from Olympic gold medalists to Champions League winners, the award-winning Sports Life Stories series focuses on the lives of iconic sporting figures.
Each of the eight episodes in this returning series tells the tale of a sporting legend, allowing each individual to open up about their careers and personal lives, and giving a vivid insight into how the impact of their achievements can reach into people's lives.
This series features:
Footballer Peter Shilton
Cyclist Chris Froome
Athlete Paula Radcliffe
Footballer Andy Cole
Athlete Linford Christie
Footballer John Barnes
Rugby player Jason Robinson
Boxer Carl Froch
Contributions from well-known friends and admirers illuminate the lives and work of the subjects and provide a close view into what drives them to succeed in their careers.
Episode 1 - Peter Shilton
“I think the fans expect 100 per cent every game and I think that’s what I tried to do, and that’s what English football is all about.” - Peter Shilton 
In the first episode of this new series, England goalkeeping legend Peter Shilton talks to Matt Smith about his 30-year playing career as well as his struggles with gambling and debt.
With contributions from England team-mate Gary Lineker, Peter’s England goalkeeping predecessor Gordon Banks and extensive archive footage, the programme focuses on how he approached the challenges in front of him - from the ‘Hand of God’ to the moment he went insolvent, to getting 125 caps for his country and making his 1,000th league appearance.
The promising young goalkeeper made his debut in 1966 - and proceeded to knock then-England goalkeeper Gordon Banks off his perch at Leicester City. Initially uncertain about his future, Peter mentioned to the manager that he was happy to move to get first-team football. Instead, the manager pulled Banks aside.
He says: “He brought me over and said, ‘Gordon, you’ve been reading about Peter.’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Well we’ve had a board meeting last night and so would you think about leaving?’ I couldn’t believe it. But he went on to be a top-class goalkeeper, without any question.”
After making his England debut in 1970 and playing in the now-infamous game against Poland in 1973 when England failed to qualify for the World Cup, Peter moved first to Stoke City and then to Nottingham Forest, managed by Brian Clough. An admirer of Clough, Peter got a taste of what lay ahead when he took his advisers to discuss the move with him after an hour’s delay for the legendary manager to play squash.
He says: “The secretary came and said, ‘Come in, you can come and see Mr Clough now.’ So we went to go in his office, I thought I would let my advisers go first. All of a sudden they tripped up and dropped their briefcases and papers were flying everywhere. I thought, ‘What’s gone off here?’ I looked down and Cloughie’s sat on the floor, and he’s tripping them up with his squash racquet.”
At Forest, Peter’s career went from strength to strength as Clough’s team won the league and then the European Cup twice. Gary Lineker says those achievements owed much to Peter's goalkeeping.
He says: “Shilton’s career is remarkable in its longevity and its brilliance. Take club football. Do you think Brian Clough and Nottingham Forest would have had the success they did without Peter Shilton? No. In his prime he was unbelievable.”
When the team were taken to Majorca for a short training break before the second final against Hamburg, Peter came up against a problem - there was no grass to train on.
He says: “Cloughie heard me complaining, panicking a bit, and he came over and said, ‘Well you’d better go with Jimmy Gordon and find some grass.’ The only bit of grass we could find was a traffic island, 15 yards in diameter with two little trees on. I did two ten-minute training sessions… And that was my preparation for the European Cup final.”
Shortly after winning that second European Cup, Peter crashed his car and was convicted of drink driving. He says: “I went out for a night out, ended up going for a meal and one thing led to another and I ended up crashing my car. Got caught drink-driving. It was embarrassing, a bad thing to do. I realised that it was my own fault, I shouldn’t have done it and I let my family down.”
Having moved to Southampton, Peter then played at the 1982 World Cup, which he describes as the turning point of his England career as he secured the number one jersey ahead of his rival Ray Clemence. But it was at the 1986 World Cup when one of the most famous incidents in his career happened - the controversial ‘Hand of God’ by Diego Maradona, who used his hand to knock the ball past Peter into the net to score a crucial goal in the quarter-final.
Peter says: “It was instinct. Something told me I could just get there before him and even just knock it two or three yards, just clear the danger. I looked round, and I looked at the referee, and I was thinking, ‘When are you going to blow your whistle?’ Get on with the game, free kick to us. He ran off up the pitch... I can’t describe the sickly feeling. Massively important quarter-final match. It’s going to be allowed. Just shock really, and [I was] gutted.
“We felt down - you can see it. I think it had a little bearing on the second goal, to be fair.”
In 1990, England made it to the World Cup semi-final against West Germany, which went to penalties. Peter, who said England were very confident before the match, faced four - but Germany scored them while Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle famously missed theirs, meaning England were out of the tournament.
Peter says: “I would love to have saved one but I did everything right. I only faced four but every one was hit like a rocket. Stuart hit it more or less at the keeper, he nearly went too early, and we missed the goal with Chrissy. To be fair, they weren’t two good penalties, and [the West Germans] hit four terrific penalties. And that was the difference.”
After retiring from England duty with 125 caps, Peter took over at Plymouth Argyle as player-manager. After leaving the club he realised he had to deal with massive debts caused by a gambling addiction which had gone back to when he was a player. He took an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA), which he says forced him to eat humble pie.
He says: “It’s hard to kill time, and I’m not making excuses, it was so easy just to get the Sporting Life and have a few bets on the phone. And it was kind of a release. Of course without you realising it gets more and more, your passion gets more and more, and you get more and more involved in it. And of course everything came together and created a massive problem with my finances.”
After playing in his 1,000th league game in 1996 for Leyton Orient, and picking up an MBE and an OBE from the Queen, Peter now lives in Essex with his partner Steph and is an after-dinner speaker. 
Gary Lineker says: “The mad thing was I watched him when I was seven years old, week in week out at Leicester. I ended up playing with him, rooming with him, spent an entire career with him, and still watched him play long after I retired.”