Mediawatch special: Shilton, Maradona and the Mail

Date published: Thursday 26th November 2020 10:33

It’s actually quite touching to see the reaction in the British media to the death of Diego Maradona; the news of his passing has reverberated around the world and football as a collective is in mourning. In an era of petty club squabbles and social media nonsense, it’s refreshing to see the vast majority of people unite to say quite unequivocally that we have lost a legend.

The back page of the Daily Mail contains only a few words and is adorned by the image of a delighted Diego lifting the World Cup. It is beautiful in its simplicity.

On the inside pages, Martin Samuel writes a moving obituary. He quite rightly barely mentions the Hand of God, except to say that ‘the goal that followed the Hand of God is arguably the finest individual offering any World Cup has seen, and is the reason Maradona’s genius will outlive his notoriety’.

They interview a clearly emotional Ossie Ardiles, while Jeff Powell (‘the first British journalist to witness his genius’ no less) writes self-indulgently but respectfully about this wonderful but tortured footballer, saying that we should ‘think of him not as the Hand of God. Think of him as the second greatest footballer ever to grace the game. Perhaps the greatest.’

All of which leads us to one question: Why the f*** did they publish that reaction from Peter Shilton?

Why write literally thousands of words about a bona fide football genius and then give space to the poison and spite of Shilton just hours after a man has died?

He writes in the opening paragraph that his ‘thoughts are with his family’ but Mediawatch suspects that his family would quite like him to stick his thoughts up his arse after what follows.

By the fourth paragraph he has already claimed that England handled Maradona with ease for the first hour of that game in Mexico and they did not even have any ‘special plans’, before…

‘None of us expected what happened next. How could we? He challenged me for a high, looping ball, but knew he wouldn’t get it with his head, so he punched it into the net. A clear offence. Cheating.’

And Shilton really should know ‘cheating’ when he sees it; he was arrested for drink-driving after being found at 5am in a country lane with a woman called Tina in his car (by Tina’s husband). Both were partially clothed. In his hurry to drive away, Shilton crashed into a lamppost. He was fined and banned from driving after admitting ‘taking a lady for a meal’.

But enough about Shilton’s own ‘cheating’, let’s return to his reaction to the actual death of an actual man.

‘As he ran away to celebrate he even looked back twice, as if waiting for the referee’s whistle. He knew what he had done. Everybody did — apart from the referee and two linesmen. I don’t care what anybody says, it won the game for Argentina. He scored a brilliant second almost immediately, but we were still reeling from what had happened minutes earlier.

‘For the first time in the game, we let him get a run on us and he scored. It was a great goal but we were in no doubt — without the first goal he would not have scored the second.’

So that great goal – described over the page as ‘arguably the finest individual offering any World Cup has seen’ – was only scored because you were all so shell-shocked by the cheating? Maybe tell that to Peter Reid, who writes that he still ‘has nightmares’ about ‘one of the best we’ll see’. Would he have looked less like ‘an old horse chasing Frankel’ if he wasn’t still reeling from the first goal?

Here’s Shilton; he hasn’t finished yet.

‘It has bothered me over the years.’

You don’t say.

‘I won’t lie about that now.’

Nobody is asking you to lie. But maybe don’t be such a d*** about it just after the man has died?

‘People say I should have cleared the ball anyway and that I let a smaller man outjump me. That’s rubbish. He had the run on me but that can happen.

‘He wouldn’t have punched it if he knew he could head it, would he? Of course not. So I am OK with all that.’

Yep. Sounds like it.

‘No, what I don’t like is that he never apologised. Never at any stage did he say he had cheated and that he would like to say sorry. Instead, he used his ‘Hand of God’ line. That wasn’t right.

‘It seems he had greatness in him but sadly no sportsmanship.’

At least he had one of those traits, Peter. He’s ahead like Frankel in that particular race too.

‘It wasn’t just me who was cheated, it was the whole team. We had a chance of reaching the last four and maybe the final of the World Cup. How often does that happen?

‘I was lucky. My chance came again four years later but others weren’t that fortunate.’

Shilton’s chance did indeed come four years later. And he failed to save a single penalty in the World Cup semi-final shoot-out against Germany. How often does that happen?

‘I guess it was all this stuff that left a sour taste. On the football field, players do things that maybe they shouldn’t do. It happens in the heat of the moment. But if that had been anyone from our England team, I would like to think he would have admitted it afterwards.

‘I hope it doesn’t taint Maradona’s legacy.’

Pardon us if we don’t believe you, Mr Shilton.



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