JON SHAW takes a deep intake of breath when the ‘W’ word comes up. “I must admit the last couple of weeks people have been talking about it,” says the South Shields man.
And who can blame the Shields supporters if they start dreaming of an FA Vase final trip to Wembley.
The Northern League side, who have a home quarter-final with Newport Pagnell Town, are the competition’s favourites.
Down to the final eight, the arch is almost visible on the horizon and the experienced Shaw knows this could be as good a chance as any to fulfil an ambition.
“It’s on my football bucket list,” says the experienced former Burton Albion, Halifax Town, Gateshead and Luton Town striker.
“It’s probably the last tick I need. I’ve come close. I’ve been in two FA Trophy semi-finals before. At Gateshead we played Darlington. We were 2-0 up, we ended up losing the first leg 3-2 and then it was a 0-0 draw at our place.
“My first experience of that was way back when with Burton. The final wasn’t at Wembley, but it was one of the years Grays Athletic won it.
“They were the big boys in the Conference South and they absolutely tortured us over two games and beat us 7-0. Michael Kightly was playing, Dennis Oli and Aaron McLean – they taught us a lesson.
“Then the year I won the Conference with Luton, Gateshead got to Wembley in the play-off final. So I missed that one as well.
“I’ve had a great career with cup runs, promotions and I’ve been a part of some great squads. But this is the one thing that’s eluded me.”
Shaw is best known for his goals, particularly a prolific spell in the Conference with Gateshead that saw him bag a move to Luton Town.
The 33-year-old returned to the Heed last season before deciding to drop down to part-time football – Shaw is a coach at Middlesbrough’s Academy and Gateshead College by day – with the ambitious South Shields.
Well-backed on the terraces as well as on the field, joint-managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton, an FA Vase winning manager with North Shields, have a talented squad.
But despite Shaw’s knack for finding the back of the net, he’s more likely to be found keeping the ball out this season.
“I mentioned to Fents and Pics that I’d played centre half before,” he says about a defensive shortage. “They stuck me in and that was it. Barring the odd appearance back up front I’ve been there for the last 20-25 games.
“We’ve done alright. We lost the derby against North Shields, but I’ve enjoyed it – as I did when I was at Gateshead under Gary Mills.
“I’ve always said to managers over the last few years it’s something I wanted to do, maybe at a younger age. I’ve been fortunate when I have been up front that I’ve scored goals so people see you as a striker. But it’s been nice to be on the other end of elbows for a change!”
Shaw highlights the professionalism in the squad and the preparation ahead of games from the management team. And he also speaks of a determination to make the most of a second chance in the competition following the floodlight failure that caused their game with holders Morpeth to be replayed.
“Morpeth will feel aggrieved the way it went down and, rightly so, we feel fortunate,” says Shaw, whose side were 4-2 behind when the lights went out.
“But that was the little kick up the rear we needed. We didn’t perform on the day and we were almost out with ten minutes to go.
“We got another shot. To get through that it was a case of, ‘Right, don’t let go of the second chance we’ve been given’.
“There’s a whole changing room there of lads who want to, not just get to the final, but go and win it. That’s got to be our aim now.”