HISTORY CORNER – AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID SHAW.
David Shaw was a prolific goal-scorer with Oldham Athletic, in the early 1970’s, and Albion manager Don Howe signed the 25 year old striker, in an effort to keep Albion in the First Division.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, and Albion were relegated to Division two. However in his two and a half year spell at the Hawthorns, Shaw went on to score 20 goals in 96 appearances, before Johnny Giles replaced the sacked Howe.
He then returned from whence he came, to Oldham, where he enjoyed another three years goal-scoring for the ‘Latics’.
I first asked David about his £77,000 move to West Bromwich Albion from Oldham in March 1973.
“There used to be a transfer deadline day in those days, and the first I knew of it was about two days before the move, when Jimmy Frizzell the Oldham manager told me they had a bid for me from West Bromwich Albion, and would I like to join them. Of course I jumped at the chance. When you consider the history of Albion and I knew of course that it was a first Division club. I knew that the manager Don Howe had done great things at Arsenal, so it was ‘no brainer’ really for me.”
1973-01.03-David Shaw joins Albion. Seen with manager Don Howe
You actually made you debut at Old Trafford against Manchester United on 3rd March, coming on a substitute. You must have signed literally hours before you made your debut, I asked.
“It was actually. I trained at Oldham on the Friday, and then went straight to the hotel in Cheshire where the Albion team was staying. I actually signed on the Thursday, then came back up to Oldham. After training on the Friday, I went to the hotel on the Friday night I think it was, and met up with my new team-mates.”
That was quite handy for you really wasn’t it. Coming from Oldham and making your debut a few miles down the road at Manchester United. What do you remember about it?
“I remember it quite well. The funny thing was, I was following the team coach in my car. Because I had taken my car across to the hotel from Oldham, and they told me to follow them to the ground. The crowd was so big, I remember the players had to get out of the coach and run to the ground. It was a real struggle. They only got there 15 minutes before kick-off, I think. Then I remember coming down the tunnel, and coming out to this great crescendo of noise, which I hadn’t been used to at Oldham! We only played in front of 10,000 or so of course, and it was a bit frightening.”
1973-14.04-David Shaw in action against Liverpool
Well it was a 46.000 attendance at Old Trafford that day, so that probably answers both your questions really.
“That was a big crowd in those days, nowadays at Old Trafford it wouldn’t be would it? With the ground as it is now. As I said I do recall the team didn’t get to the ground until 15-20 minutes before kick-off. I came on as a sub in the second half, and I remember, I did have a chance, but the United keeper Alex Stepney saved it. We lost 2-1 unfortunately.”
Yes, that’s right. Jeff Astle scored Albion’s goal that day. What was it like making your debut alongside such an icon as Jeff Astle?
“Well, picture it in your mind, I had come from nowhere, and here I was lining up against International players, it was a bit daunting really wasn’t it.”
1973-24.10-David Shaw goal-v-Sheff Wed
I imagine it must have been, but Jeff also came from ‘nowhere’ signing from Notts County in 1964, so he would probably had sympathy for you, I suggested.
“Yes, that’s right, but even so, when you have been used to playing in front of crowds of seven to ten thousand people. Then you come to Old Trafford and you are playing with players like Len Cantello, Asa Hartford, Tony Brown, Jeff Astle, and players like that, not to mention all the great Manchester United stars. All household names, it really was a bit daunting.”
So David, you make your debut against Manchester United just hours after signing for Albion, and a couple of weeks later, you score you first goal for Albion against another great club Leeds United.
“Yes I did. A ‘one all’ draw at the Hawthorns I recall. I don’t really remember a lot about it to be quite honest. I think it was one of the Leeds players who made a mistake clearing the ball, inside the area. It came to me and I just hit it, and that’s all I can remember really. I do remember of course playing against the likes of Leeds, and all of their ‘household’ names, like Billy Bremner. You have to remember I had never played against players like that, and it was just fantastic. The funny thing is, being a Yorkshire lad, I always seemed to score against a Yorkshire side. Funny really, that I have tremendous record of scoring against Yorkshire sides.”
A couple of weeks later you didn’t do bad against a Lancashire side, another great Outfit Everton, when you scored a couple in a fantastic 4-0 victory.
“Yes, I remember that well. It looked like it might be the start of something big for us. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, and our away form let us down. Unfortunately I didn’t score any more goals that season. I was bought to score goals, and I have to say that I obviously take full blame for failing to score goals and failing to keep Albion up, but one man isn’t going to keep a team up on his own, is he?”
No he isn’t, and looking at your record for Albion it isn’t bad though. You scored 20 goals in 96 appearances, 18 of those as a substitute.
“No, I suppose not, but I was still disappointed. Obviously, the higher you play up the leagues, the better the defenders. I accept that, but I still don’t think that Albion’s style suited mine to be honest, where-as at Oldham, everything ‘clicked’. But I suppose that’s football isn’t it. At Albion it was definitely a different style of football. At Oldham it was more direct, whereas with Albion it was more ‘to feet’. I liked the ball to be played over the top, where I was able to use my pace. Unfortunately that didn’t seem to happen. But as I said, ‘that’s football’.”
Looking at your career stats overall, you made 319 league appearances for your various clubs, and scored 109 goals. That’s a ration of a goal in every three games, which isn’t the worst record is it?
“That’s right, What would I be worth nowadays!!” (ha ha)
I don’t think you would get too many strikers these days with that kind of goal ratio! So you have a lot to be proud of, I suggested.
“Yes, I agree. I have always been very proud of my performances, and I have always tried 100%. I just feel that I didn’t do as well as I could have done, at West Brom that is.”
The following season 1973-74, you played a part in most games, you had quite a full season didn’t you.
“Yes I did, I played 30 odd games that season didn’t I.”
Yes, and the next season 74-75 you again featured prominently, playing alongside the ‘great’ Joe Mayo, who had been brought in to do a job from Walsall, where he was scoring goals for fun. What was he like to play with? I asked.
“Yes, I remember him being a very nice lad. We had this system where he played one half and I played the other half. Which was Don Howe’s idea. I don’t know how it came about, but he had this notion of me playing the first half, then Joe coming on for the second. Or Joe playing in the first and me in the second. It was weird really, but that’s Don Howe.”
What did Joe think about that system, I asked.
“Yes he seemed to be OK with it. At least you are involved and I suppose that is all that matters really. I mean nowadays you can have the three subs, or even more, I don’t even know how many you have these days!! In those days, you were either in the team or you were out, and just one sub.”
That’s very true. I did notice however, that you actually played one game at wing half as a replacement for Len Cantello. What was the thinking behind that?
“I remember against Bristol City, I think it was, Len got injured after 70 minutes or so, and Joe must have came on up front, and I reverted back to half back. I quite enjoyed it to be fair.”
You actually started a match at wing-half against Southampton. Do you recall that?
“Did I, Was that the game we drew one each? I can’t remember to be fair. I do recall that I was shattered, because playing at wing half you were up and down, up and down, the pitch, and I was shattered at the end. Especially playing in mid-field, when you are used to playing up front. Having said that, I recall I actually played full-back for Huddersfield Town. I had always been a striker, but coming back from injury one time, I was in the reserves, and the manager Ian Greaves came to me and said “How do you fancy playing full-back”. He put me at left full back. Of course I was primarily a right footer, and he put me at left back for about 6-7 games in the reserves. Then I actually got into the first team as a left back, and I played for the first team at Blackpool where we drew one each. That was the only game I ever played in the first team for Huddersfield Town!”
The following season Johnny Giles replaced Don Howe, and that was more or less the end for you as an Albion player.
“Yes that’s right. I never played for the first team again. He (John Giles) never told me why, and the first time I found out I wasn’t in the picture was at the start of the 75/76 season. I played for the reserves and scored as few goals, but I think if I had scored 25 goals he still wouldn’t have fancied me, and I really don’t know to why, to this day. He never said anything to me, and I can’t understand why.”
He probably remembered you scored that equaliser against them in 1973! (ha ha)
(ha ha)…”You’re probably right, but seriously, it’s just incredible to me why he didn’t speak to me about it. It really is. I can understand him not fancying me for his team, that’s fair enough, but I thought he would have told me that, and told me to make my own arrangements. Which he did do, months later, when he had moved me out of the first team dressing room. I remember I came in one day, to where I used to get my things, and my peg wasn’t there. He told me I was in the reserve team room. I was very disappointed that he hadn’t told me. I remember thinking at the time how ‘pathetic’ it was. I’m made of strong stuff, but John could have treated me better.”
You left Albion, and went back to your old club Oldham Athletic, where your career picked up again. Initially you went on loan, then re-signed for £20.000 in December 1975, staying with ‘the latics’ until 1978, when injury ended your career. Is that right?
“Yes that’s right. I had a cartilage out in my right knee, when I was with Huddersfield back in 1968. In those days if you had a cartilage injury it was nearly the end of your career. The fella that did it was the same bloke who did Denis Law’s knee. He made a right mess of it and even today it’s not good. In 1978 the injury came back, and I just lost my pace. So, that was it. But, that’s just ‘part and parcel’ of the game I’m afraid. I finished up and from there took a pub for Milnrow, outside Rochdale for eight years. Then, with the kids growing up, I got tired with that, and went to work for an engineering company, ‘Hopkinsons valves’, as a store-man. I stayed there for fifteen years until I was made redundant, then took on a couple of driving jobs for another eight years or so, until I had trouble with both my hips, which needed replacing. After that I more or less retired.”
It’s amazing how many ex-footballers have trouble with their hips.
“Yes I know, it’s down to all the twisting and turning in football. I also played cricket, and I don’t think that helped either. I played cricket for a number of years, until I was about 50. When I was fifteen I went to the Yorkshire nets, so I would say I was a fair cricketer. I don’t play anymore, but I still love the game.”
So overall, despite not having the best of careers at Albion, you enjoyed it? I asked.
Did I enjoy it overall. Yes, of course I did. It was good ‘crack’. To me, playing football for money is the best thing you could ever do. I loved playing football, and I think most players do. In those days though, money never came into it. You didn’t make anything out of it, you spent the money as you were going along. Nowadays, players earn so much, they can’t possible spend it all can they? The game has changed!”
It certainly has. One last question David. You played against Albion in the 1976 promotion game, at Oldham, didn’t you? I asked.
“I certainly did. I remember Tony Brown got the winner, and I have to say I’m glad they got promotion. After the match John Wile came to my house, on his way home to Sunderland. I’m chuffed to bits that Albion got there, because they are a great club and deserve to be in the Premier League, or first Division as it was then, don’t they?”
I understand that you haven’t been in touch with any of your old Albion team-mates. Is that right?
“Yes that’s right, I haven’t been in touch with any of my old Oldham team-mates either. I just haven’t bothered. It’s a shame really. I just mentioned Tony Brown. I really enjoyed playing with Tony. He scored a lot of goals when we played together. In the Second Division that season he must have scored between 20 and 30 goals. I recall he scored a lot. He was a terrific player and a nice lad as well.”
Well both ‘Bomber’ and Joe Mayo are ‘religious’ members of the Former Players Association, so when you come down to see us, you can catch up on old times. Another of your old team-mates Ray Wilson, is Chairman of the Association.
I’ll look forward to it. It will be good to talk about old times.
It certainly will David. Thank-you for taking the time to speak to us.
David Shaw/Laurie Rampling – June 2011