Manchester United

How many of you remember ‘Hersham Boys’ by Sham 69? It was their best-known hit and got to number six in the UK singles chart and number nine in Ireland – the latter was probably due more to the Irish A&R approach of turning music on its head and a clever play on the band’s name.

Sham 69 were nominally an English punk rock band but many of us at the time questioned whether they ever really were or had just jumped on a popular bandwagon for commercial gain. Think that sounds just a little bit pompous? Time to get out your Sting biography and know that we were just as suspicious of every step he took too.

Having a hit single was just plain ‘wrong’ in the punk era and it all felt a bit like a promising, authentic start that just ended in a sell-out.

The 69 was not a position known to many footballers on the field at the time but had once been featured in the George Best pre-match excellence program of diet, exercise and fluid management. No. 69 came from some local graffiti about Walton & Hersham F.C., the local football team who once beat Brian Clough’s Brighton & Hove Albion 4-0 in the FA Cup at the Goldstone Ground. Clough, Goldstone Ground – we really are going back in history with this Tale!

Luke Shaw was a Hersham boy. Though born in Kingston-upon-Thames, he was educated at the Rydens Enterprise School in Hersham which, as its name suggests, has a special focus on business and enterprise. Luke was a long way behind in classes but showed a lot of promise in the tuck shop.

So, did Luke then lace up his boots, pull on his corduroys and market himself as a Cockney cowboy who intended to break the mould, or was he more self-serving than that?

If his Chelsea-supporting family saw it as a good strategy for getting him into the local club, then their risk assessment proved faulty in 2003. Luke was then eight years old and failed to get a place in the Chelsea Academy. One reason suggested for this was that Roman Abramovich took over the club at about the same time and didn’t trust someone called Luke who could spout lines such as “He hath shewed strength with his arm,” or “he hath put down the mighty from their seats” because, even when standing where the dog track used to run around Stamford Bridge, Roman knew a handball when he could just about see one.

Another possible explanation was that Luke wasn’t actually as good as he thought he was, and often a long way behind the others in sprinting, unless it was to the chip shop.

Luke looked around for another local club (AFC Wimbledon could have snapped him up, having moved on from The Fox and Grapes on Wimbledon Common, but they didn’t supply chips) so Luke moved to, ahem, Southampton instead.

Nigel Adkins, a physiotherapist, massage fanatic and one-time football manager, gave Luke his first-team debut and, though Luke was still a long way behind the others on the training field, he could absolutely be relied upon to be first in the queue at the club’s lovely new restaurants. Luke also became the youngest Southampton player to start a game in the Premier League.

While everyone was making plans for Nigel, he did admit that, “We had to spend a lot of time looking after Luke because he was very young and there were the off-field things that go with that. We had to put a special group together just to help him develop his all-round lifestyle and give him an opportunity to deal with the situations that arose.”

Then, after yet another chip fire situation, Nigel blew it by massaging the truth, stating publicly, in a rather nice white tunic, that Southampton had “no intention … of letting any of [their] young players move on.”

Ha ha ha ha ha

Luke’s family tried to cover the cost of a new cooker in the back kitchen of their kebab shop by trying to get Luke into Chelsea again but the then Chelsea manager, José Mourinho, thought it might cause instability in the dressing room if the benches weren’t reinforced first and Roman wasn’t interested in paying for them as he was still trying to find a lift to take him back into the stands.

Louis van Gaal made Luke the most expensive footballer in world football, three years ago, when he signed for Manchester United for around £30 million plus as much Gouda and chips as Luke could eat. This is, of course, a long way behind the Pogba deal which involved snails.

Even Louis noticed that Luke’s shorts were a bit tight and worse was to come. Poor Luke found himself a long way behind the ball in a match against the Dutch team, PSV (which, amazingly, Louis van Gaal never fed off as a player or coach), mainly because he had broken his leg in two places.

Greying nicely now and occasionally making sense in English, José Mourinho thinks Luke is a long way behind other United defenders including, incredibly, Ashley Young who was last seen performing his party act by diving into a vat of hot chip fat at the ‘Luke Shaw Diner’ in Altrincham.

Never one to be a long way behind a soundbite, former United pie man, Phil Neville, believes that Luke just needs to ‘pull his finger’ out of the chip wrapping and all will be well. Sadly, Luke’s attitude might well be that, ‘if the cap once fitted …’