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My Favourite Villan: Phil Williams on Gary Shaw

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My Favourite Villan: Phil Williams on Gary Shaw

We have asked members of the claret and blue family - celebrities, fans, journalists, staff - to give us their all-time hero. Here BBC Five Live presenter Phil Williams recalls the culinary advice served up by his boyhood idol Gary Shaw.

As a Brummie born to a Brummie mother and a Welsh father, I consider myself lucky to be a Villa fan.

My first-ever game was against Swansea City at Villa Park in September 1982.

Swansea were my dad's team and had the result gone differently this impressionable young boy might have followed in his father's footsteps.

But just a month after I'd turned eight and got the home strip for my birthday, I found myself surrounded by over 21,000 huge men, mostly with beards, watching one of the finest teams the club have produced win 2-0 with goals from Dennis Mortimer and Allan Evans.

They had won the league title and European Cup over the previous two seasons and you've probably stared at Brian Moore's legendary commentary before reading this.

One man captivated my imagination more than some of the other class acts on display that afternoon.

His pace, agility and foppish blonde hair made him, for me, the James Bond of footballers.

He was cool. He looked cool. And what's more, he could beat players for fun and knew where the goal was.

That man was Gary Shaw.

As in "Gary Shaw, Gary Shaw, Gary Gary Shaw. When he gets the ball, he's going to score, Gary Gary Shaw."

In 1982 it felt like Gary and I were inextricably linked. I chanted his name louder than no other.

Lest we forget, this side featured Tony Morley, Peter Withe and the captain extraordinaire, Dennis Mortimer.

But Shaw was my idol. When I played in the playground at school, I was Gary Shaw - just without his finishing prowess - and it was at Bromford Infants and Juniors in Hodge Hill that I got to meet Gary.

As long as I live I will never forget the day when deputy head Mr Jones, himself a Welshman (the pressure was immense to follow the Swans, trust me) gathered the whole infants school into the assembly hall.

"We have a special guest today children," he announced. "He's come to talk to us about his job. He is a professional footballer."

No. An actual footballer. In our school. In Hodge Hill.

"This man plays for Aston Villa," continued Mr Jones.

Oh. My. God. An actual professional footballer from MY team.

"So could we give our thanks through applause to…" he paused. In many ways, Mr Jones was the Ant 'n' Dec of his day and ahead of his time with his pregnant pauses.

"Gary Shaw."

No way. And in he came, looking just like the player whose name I'd chanted for 90 minutes that Saturday.

This was a pivotal moment. Not only was I meeting my idol but I was starting my career as an interviewer and journalist.

After a brief speech, Gary took questions and my arm shot up faster than a blistering right foot strike from Shaw.

Here was my first incisive, straight to the heart of the matter question that I asked the PFA Young Player of the Year for 1981.

"What food do footballers need to eat in order to be big and strong?"

Gary thought for a moment and then replied, "Steak and chips."

Spare a thought for the club dietician, who'll be choking on his asparagus as he reads this.

But it was 1982.

My career in sports journalism had begun. Thanks to the hero of mine who dedicated 10 years of service to our club.

I'm now 38. But if you see me in the Holte End and ask me who my favourite Villa player is, I'll still tell you Gary Shaw.

And if you ask me what my favourite meal is, I'll still tell you steak and chips.

And if you ask me why my waistline is bigger than it should be, I'll tell you it's all Gary Shaw's fault.

Snap up your tickets for the Bradford clash.

AVFC Official
By @AVFCOfficial 21st January 2013
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