In the first of a saintsfc.co.uk series looking at former Saints players selected for FIFA World Cups while at the Club, we begin with Peter Shilton – England’s most capped representative.
A few of the Three Lions legend’s 125 senior caps were accumulated at 1986’s competition held in Mexico having already helped England to an undefeated qualifying campaign beforehand.
Shilton joined Southampton from Nottingham Forest shortly after displacing fellow goalkeeper Ray Clemence for the 1982 World Cup despite the latter donning the nation’s gloves in the friendlies that preceded it.
It was in his period on the south coast alongside ex-England teammate Alan Ball that the custodian’s international appearance count started to grow at a more rapid rate, even though he arrived at the Dell at the age of 32.
Shilton enjoyed a five-year stint at Southampton, narrowly missing out on the First Division title in the 1983/84 season after Liverpool secured the trophy with a three-point lead over Lawrie McMenemy’s side.
The ‘keeper entered the 1986 World Cup four years into his time at the Club where he chalked up 241 displays and having just secured his 80th cap on the international stage.
In a competition that brought so much personal pride for Shilton after being handed the captaincy part-way through, feelings of positivity were dampened by a globally-recognised moment of controversy provided by Argentine legend Diego Maradona.
Following progression from Group F including Portugal, Morocco and Poland, England comfortably swept aside Paraguay in a Round of 16 tie to set up a quarter-final meeting with Argentina that would be remembered by many worldwide for years to come due the manner in which Maradona handed the South Americans a huge advantage.
After Argentina appeared to surrender possession on the edge of the Lions’ box, the ball was inadvertently sent looping back into the Maradona’s path as England looked to clear before the diminutive midfielder leapt up and beat a stretching Shilton to knock the ball into a gaping net with the use of his fist.
Despite protests from the-then Southampton number-one and other members of Bobby Robson’s team, referee Ali Bin Nasser ruled in favour of La Albiceleste.
English frustration was compounded by Maradona soon after when Argentina’s talisman, from his own half, raced past multiple players including Shilton before tucking into an open net – a solo strike voted FIFA World Cup Goal of the Century.
Gary Lineker halved the deficit but that proved to be only a consolation as the Lions bowed out of the tournament for the year.
Shilton drew the curtains on his Southampton spell a year later as he joined Derby County, who were the fifth side of an 11-team career spanning over 30 years. Peter bowed out of playing after his 1005th Football League appearance, which came at the age of 47 for Leyton Orient.