England were in safer hands in the days of perms and sideburns

November 17, 2007

Shilton saves against Argentina

Whatever else was wrong with the England football team in the past there was always the reassuring fact that the man between the posts was one of the best in the world.

As a young boy I was convinced that English goalkeepers like Peter Shilton, Ray Clemence and Joe Corrigan were super-human, unbeatable, blessed with magical ball-stopping powers.

Obviously I was wrong, but then again the only argument regarding the No.1 shirt in those days was whether Shilton was slightly more brilliant than Clemence or vice versa.

Shilton, who barged 1966 World Cup winning keeper Gordon Banks out of the Leicester team as a teenager in 1967 and eventually replaced him for England, went on to win 125 caps and play in three World Cups.

I still remember one sensational save he made against Poland in a World Cup qualifier in 1989 that effectively sealed England’s place in Italy the following year.

Poor old Clemence, who kept goal for Liverpool as they dominated English football in the 70s. He would have been an automatic choice in pretty much every other country in the world but was restricted to 61 caps.

Arsenal’s David Seaman continued the trend, seizing the goalie’s shirt after Shilton’s international retirement to rack up 75 England caps. He was never quite as reliable though.

Now, the days of England fans taking the last line of defence for granted appear to be over.

Scott Carson kept a clean sheet on his debut for England against Austria on Friday and there is a suspicion that he may keep his place for the final Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia on Wednesday.

That would have been unthinkable in days gone by, chucking a rookie into such a vital game, but coach Steve McClaren may have run out of confidence in first choice Paul Robinson. He has been error-prone all season, blundering against Croatia away, against Germany in a friendly and was also not blameless in the defeat in Russia.

Despite approaching 50 caps, he has never inspired the same confidence as Shilton, Clemence or Seaman (a situation not helped by the comedy gloves he wears that appear to be about four sizes too big).

However the options are limited these days. Carson, on loan from Liverpool at Aston Villa, has potential, but veteran David James, a superbly athletic stopper but guilty of moments of madness, is surely coming to the end of his career. West Ham’s Robert Green, Wigan’s injury-prone Chris Kirkland, and Manchester United reserve Ben Foster are all on the fringes. The chances of any of them getting near Shilton’s century of appearances appear remote.

Oh, for the days of green jerseys, Shilton’s frizzy perm and Clem’s sideburns. England were in safe hands back then.

PHOTO: Shilton saves a shot on goal by Argentina in the first half of the quarter-final of the World Cup June 22, 1986. Argentina won 2-1 at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Scanned from negative. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

2 comments

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England may have had better goalkeepers then, but they seem to have beeter luck now. Check out the Israel v Russia score tonight…

Posted by Kev | Report as abusive

It’s true that the English keepers of today probably aren’t as ‘magical’ as they used to seem.. maybe this is something to do with the country’s below-par performances?

It is obviously a massive bonus if your defence trusts the man between the posts and can rely on him. Paul Robinson seems to be following in the footsteps of David James and personally I wouldn’t want either in goal for England.

You cannot complain with a clean sheet for Scott Carson, but I still find it amazing that Robert Green has not been given an opportunity yet. Some of his performances since joining West Ham have been nothing short of world class.

Posted by Football Betting Boy | Report as abusive