Football romantics hoping to witness one of the biggest upsets in FA Cup history on Monday evening were left disappointed by the sight of the mighty Arsenal brushing aside plucky Sutton at Gander Green Lane ground with a routine 2-0 win.
At least, in the 83rd minute, they could take comfort in the reassuring spectacle of the non-league side’s 23-stone reserve goalkeeper guzzling a meat pie in the dugout. Such moments tend to be ripe with symbolism, epitomising an apparently egalitarian competition that allows pub teams the opportunity to dream of toppling Premier League megabrands, destined to be replayed for years to come in humorous clip shows and more serious magic-of-the-Cupdocumentaries.
To TV viewers, the goalkeeper in question, Wayne Shaw, actually looked like he had just stepped out of the pub. He was even reported to have joined Sutton fans in the bar at half-time.
Until Monday, at least, Shaw was deemed to be one of the game’s “good guys”. Before Piegate, he was the club’s unsung hero – Mr Sutton. As well as making occasional forays on to the pitch, he was goalkeeping coach, caretaker of their plastic turf and community liaison officer. He often even slept overnight at the ground to help prepare for match days.
To many, he was the antidote to modern football: a larger-than-life character who put the fun and commitment back into a bland, corporatised game skewed in favour of a powerful, moneyed elite. But it turns out that Shaw was not the messiah, exactly. He had been, in fact, a bit of a naughty boy.
Before the game, Sun Bets offered odds of 8-1 that he would eat a pie on camera during the match. He knew about the bet and scoffed down the food, he said, for “a bit of banter”. For this one misjudgment he has been hung out to dry.