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It began in 1970 when he lined up against East Germany
That doesn’t even exist any more
The wall fell down in our lifetimes
Along with other historical moments that may have passed us by.
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The ball cruised through his hands against Poland
At Wembley on a frustrating October night
Allan Clarke restored parity with a penalty
Past the ‘clown’ Tomaszewski who was outstanding
Whilst Shilton made a mistake.
Even the presence of a World Cup winner
Couldn’t stop England spinning out.
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As the Poles came to Wembley I was starting school
After spending carefree afternoons in nursery,
A nativity play just finished and a uniform bought.
A step upon the stairs of growth.
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After failing before, all hopes were pinned on Argentina
But the 1970s were a World Cup desert
For Shilton but he was to have other chances.
For the Chivers’ and Channons came words of sympathy
For never being able to grace the world’s stage.
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Back home Shilton was to have success in Nottingham
In the goal at Forest where his world record fee
For a goalkeeper raised eyebrows everywhere
But the clean sheets he kept
And the trophies he helped them win
Meant any criticism that came his way
He could deal with like when he jumped up for corners
And punched the threat away.
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A bigger classroom for me but still I felt so young
Picking holes in a table and arguments over pencil sharpeners.
Making boats out of lollipop sticks and dropping them
On flooded roads then chasing them with pride
As they rushed away.
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Finally after the hiatus the return comes in Spain.
Shilton in a contest with Clemence for the Number One shirt
As Greenwood can’t calm the conflict in his head
Between two worthy voices.
England expects from Keegan and Brooking
But a header is so near yet so far
And the bags are packed for coming home.
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So long Primary school and onto the Secondary.
Days spent moving from teacher to teacher
To class to class, from book to book
As the comfortable routine of youth is gently disrupted
To give new views and new faces.
Still learning, still learning.
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Standing in the suffocating heat of Mexico
Stuttering through the group before Lineker’s golden boot
Saves the day again.
Another quarter-final in Mexico
Another heartbreaker for the English.
Shilton adorns a thousand front pages
As he jumps with his raised, clenched fist
Just below the raised, clenched fist of
About to create furious anger in those of white shirts.
A figure to blame, a figure to despise.
Shilton was beaten by the ‘Hand of God’
So what chance did he have?
Refs and linesmen with eyes closed block out his cries.
Cheats never prosper eh?
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Now I reach a landmark age.
To think they’d let me get married!
Sat in an dusty, muggy hall with a clock ticking by
And a paper to scribble on for three hours.
Test followed by test squeezed into sunny hours
Spent sitting at the desk.
Seeing who ‘woz ere’ but no ‘Jesus Saves…
But Shilton is better’.
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The magic of Van Basten is unleashed when Holland
Send England crashing out.
Shilton has always had better luck in the European Cup
Than in those damned European Championships.
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A date to remember again.
Time to drink, time to vote, time to gamble,
Time to move on.
That lingering smell that filled the corridors
Will soon all be a distant memory.
School is over but the education continues
In the University.
Leaving the town to go to the city.
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Finally the last appearance comes in Italy.
A team and a time to reinvigorate flagging hearts
As football is ushered into the 1990s with an explosion.
‘None shall sleep’ he sang and none of us did
As Shilton kept goal and England found themselves
In the World Cup Semi-Final
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An unlucky deflection then Lineker is saviour once more
And the penalty shootout beckons.
Unstoppable West German penalties, a couple of England misses
And it’s all over.
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A play-off for third and fourth against Italy
On their home turf.
Rows of players laughing and smiling at the end
With Schillaci’s face masked with regret.
Shilton praised for his service and 125 caps
To show for each game stood between the posts
With three lions on his chest.
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Time to retire from the national side but still at Derby County
Doing what he does best.
And he would go on to other clubs spending more and more time
Stopping a ball going into a net.
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So it ends for him in Italy but it doesn’t end for me.
Twenty years and how things change.
How people grow.
My education goes on with different books,
Different subjects, different pens
But with the same sloppy handwriting.