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Wayne Shaw : Modern Day Icarus

 

Sutton United, currently in the National League (the fifth tier of English soccer), recently went on an amazing FA Cup run that saw them defeat three teams from higher divisions to enter into the Fifth Round. Their opponents on Monday evening were Premier League side Arsenal, a team that was 105 places above. For a group of players who have part time jobs, some of them even outcasts from Arsenal’s youth academy, this was a dream come true. Plus, Arsenal were coming off a dismal 5-1 thrashing by Bayern Munich. This was a great chance for Sutton United to pull off the seemingly impossible.

As the general population outside of South London began noticing this incredible run, an unlikely talisman emerged from the team. It was not captain Jamie Collins, who scored the winner against Leeds United to set up the game against Arsenal, nor their vaping coach Paul Doswell, but 46 year old, 280-300lbs reserve goalkeeper Wayne Shaw.

THE RISE

The “Roly Poly Goalie” gave an interview with US-based Men in Blazers on their February 15 podcast. He was delightfully blunt about the realities of playing for Sutton United, and came off as generally endearing. Not only is Shaw the reserve goalkeeper, but he is also a groundskeeper and goalkeeping coach for the club – as evidenced before the Arsenal game:

FLYING TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN

As the match got under way, it was obvious that the camera was going to be very fond of Shaw sitting on the bench. Arsenal took the lead in the 26th minute through a Lucas Perez goal, and Sutton went into halftime break trailing. Well, it appears that Shaw had other plans:

Theo Walcott scored the second goal for the Gunners in the 55th minute. It was never likely that Shaw would feature in this game to begin with, but at 2-0 down there was almost zero possibility.

The Fall

In the 81st minute Sutton United used their final substitution as Dan Fitchett came on Maxime Biamou. Seconds later, the cameras cut to Shaw on the bench.

Screenshot via BBC

Shaw decided to have himself a snack while he was on the bench. The announcers loved it, Twitter went insane, everybody was having a good time. The match finished 2-0 to Arsenal, and Sutton United’s dream run ended.

Things would actually get a lot worse for Shaw. Apparently The Sun (it’s almost too good to be true), the team’s controversial new sponsor, had tweeted out earlier that they were giving 8/1 odds that Shaw would eat a pie on camera at some stage of the game. Turns out, Shaw knew about this bet and said that “a few mates and a few fans” took the bet. The English FA & Gambling Commission decided that this claim was worth investigating on Tuesday.

By the end of the day, Shaw was forced to resign his position.

The Aftermath

The end of this Wayne Shaw saga is obviously an unfortunate one. You never want to see anyone lose their job, but it’s especially hard to look back at his interview with Men in Blazers and not hear how proud he was of Sutton United. Luckily, sometimes there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Cover photo via Jed Leicester/BPI/REX

You can find JP on Twitter at @jp_rcs.