Peter Shirtliff: GMF catches up with a Hillsborough legend who's now the main man at Mansfield
By Lawrie Madden 08-05-06
Peter Shirtliff had two spells with Sheffield Wednesday over a 15-year period, the local born lad starting out with his brother Paul at Hillsborough and quickly establishing himself in the heart of the defence. 'Shirty' moved on to Charlton and helped them stay in the top flight before returning to Wednesday under Ron Atkinson and helping the Owls win their first trophy – the League Cup in 1991- since 1934. Shirtliff moved on to Wolves and Barnsley before ending an 18-year playing career in 1997. He became youth team coach at Barnsley and moved up to assistant when Dave Bassett took over. He followed Bassett to Leicester before becoming assistant manager to Carlton Palmer at Mansfield in 2005. When Palmer left Shirtliff became caretaker manager before eventually becoming manager in October 2005. Taking over when the club was bottom of the table, Shirtliff has guided them to a mid-table position and givemefootball's own Wednesday legend Lawrie Madden caught up with the Stags boss.
A MANAGER NOW, BUT HOW DO YOU REFLECT ON YOUR PLAYING CAREER?
I feel I had a pretty decent career over 18 years in which there were highs and lows. I enjoyed promotion under Jack Charlton and then Howard Wilkinson while at Wednesday and then when I came back the second time I had success with Ron Atkinson. So, in all, I had three promotions with Wednesday and one promotion with Barnsley.
WHAT ABOUT THE LOWS?
I broke my arm against Liverpool and missed out on playing in two cup finals against Arsenal. I was captain at the time and we got to Wembley in both cups in 1993 and I missed out. That was a low and also being relegated with Wednesday, although we got promotion straightaway.
YOU HAD AN EVENTFUL TIME AT CHARLTON?
Yes, the play-offs were different in those days. The team that finished fourth played against one of three teams from the division below. We played Leeds in the final to stay in the division. We beat them 1-0 at home and lost 1-0 away so we went to a third game decider which meant extra time and penalties then. I scored two goals and that ensured Charlton stayed in the top flight. We left it a bit late but it was important that Charlton stayed up because they had only been promoted the season before. It was a harsh format in those days. It is much better where it is about teams getting into the top flight rather than trying to stay in it.
WHAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER?
The high has to be the League Cup Final triumph in 1991 when we beat Manchester United 1-0 at Wembley. It was a terrific season because we got promoted that season and winning the cup was the icing on the cake.
DID IT TAKE YOU LONG TO ADAPT TO THE COACHING GAME?
I had been assistant manager for some time. I was assistant to John Hendrie at Barnsley and then to Dave Bassett when he took over. In the first season that Dave took over we got to the play off-final and lost to Ipswich. I thought they were the best side in the division and deserved to go up. I had a spell under Trevor Francis at Birmingham before moving to Leicester under Dave Bassett again. At Leicester the club was in administration but we managed to get promotion so that was a highlight.
AND HOW ARE THINGS GOING AT MANSFIELD?
I came with Carlton Palmer as assistant and when he left I took over. It is well documented that Carlton wasn't going to tolerate the stick from the crowd and he decided to leave. I'm enjoying management but no doubt playing is best. I suppose it was not until I was coming to the end of my career at about 30 that I realised how good a life being a player I had. It sinks in around then unless you have a serious injury. Now I am in charge and I make the decisions. I like the responsibility of that, taking training, picking players, scouting and delegating if I need too. Having said that you need to plan your time because you can only do so much. You try to be as efficient as you can.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE FOR MANSFIELD?
When I took over we were bottom. By the end of the season we achieved relative safety before the end of the season so I would have taken that when I started. Now I am looking to kick on again and hopefully try and be in the top half of the table rather the bottom half. I am hoping to bring in some players but have to work within a tight budget.