We recently launched a new column called "Remember him?", in which we revisit the memories of former Fradi footballers that we’ve heard less about lately. It is really interesting to relive the past and the careers of these football players for a special moment, important goal, match, speech, or event, and to also find out what he's doing today.
Our second interviewee is Paul Shaw, who joined our team at a difficult time in the history of Ferencváros, in the NB II era of the football team. His twenty goals in the second division were also much needed to leave the NB II years behind us and get the team back to its place. The career and life of our former English striker turned out to be very tangled: he came from a small English town, but soon found himself in the legendary Arsenal. He has worked with Arsène Wenger and Dennis Bergkamp, was part of eleven English clubs, played in the Premier League, but also in Football League Championship, Football League One and Football League Two. He found a home in Hungary, but football eventually took him to Orlando, more than 8,000 kilometers away from Budapest. Paul Shaw was happy to talk about his beginnings, the years in England, his time in Fradi, the pressure from the fans, Peter Lipcsei and Attila Dragóner, as well as his current job.
- You were born in Burnham, England in the 1970’s. What was life like there as a kid, did you know right away that you wanted to be a professional footballer?
- I grew up in a really small town, 15 minutes away from London. There were only a few schools in Burnham but everything in the city was about football, every kid was playing it. My father was a fan of Chelsea, he took me to matches in London many times, and I immediately fell in love with the sport.
- Were you also a fan of Chelsea?
- No, despite my father’s love for Chelsea, I cheered for Arsenal. Scouts sent by London clubs always came to the local football team. When I found out that Arsenal was interested in me, at the age of 14, it was obvious that I wanted to go there right away. Back then, you could have decided to finish school at the age of 16, so I did that too, and then I spent all my time in the club. My thoughts revolved only around football. Now, of course, I know I should have paid more attention to studying as well (laughs).
- How hard was it for a young Englishman to become a professional footballer back then?
- My father helped me a lot with this, he kept taking me to trainings from a young age. You can get a license in England at the age of 16, I also learned to drive quickly and then got a car so I was able to become independent relatively early on. However, in the competitive situation there, it was very difficult to stand your ground, the trainings were crazy hard and they had high expectations.
Lots of people wanted to play in Arsenal, all the best players went there, so becoming a pro at that club was by no means easy.
For me, however, my number one goal was to become better every day. I enjoyed every minute I could spend in that fantastic team.
- With the introduction of the Premier League in 1992, it was at that time when English football underwent major reforms.
- Yes, because of this, many more foreigners came and Arsène Wenger also joined the club. More and more players came, the standard kept rising. It really lifted the standards, as a player had to jump a very high bar to be a pro at an Arsenal-level club. I was lucky to be able to play for Wenger and with footballers like Dennis Bergkamp.
- What was it like to work with Wenger?
- He was a very quiet men but demanded 100 percent every minute of training. These trainings weren’t always long, we sometimes only trained for an hour or less, but you had to give it your all during that time. He worked with high expectations, and whoever did not meet them had to leave quickly. We had a very good relationship, he always spoke openly and straight. As more and more players came from Europe, he honestly said he would find me another team.
Although many offers came for me, he was the first to let me know if they didn’t seem good enough. He could have let go of me many times, but he waited until he found the right team for me. That's also why I really respect him.
- It’s common in England to loan young players regularly early in their careers, which has also happened to you. How difficult this system is for an English teenager?
- It’s definitely not easy. I remember, I was 18 when I first went to Cardiff which was in the Football League Two at the time. I played six games, it wasn’t a good period, the games didn’t go well for me either. A situation like this is a hard test, but I learned a lot from it. I understood what I needed to do to be better on the second, third loan.
- Which season was your best in England?
- The years at Millwall were really nice, then at Gillingham too which was in the Football League Championship. The latter is a small club, but we have formed a good team with lots of talented young players. Perhaps the matches between 2000 and 2002 were the best.
- And who was your best teammate?
- Definitely Bergkamp. His vision on the field is amazing, but his attitude to football, his training work is also outstanding. A focused, great guy. It felt great to be around him at a young age.
- Who was the first to mention the Ferencváros opportunity to you, and how did you receive it all?
- When I played at Sheffield United, I met Dave McCarthy (who also worked as FTC’s professional director - ed.), later He first talked about how there will be a chance for players to get into Fradi. I told him I would love that, and I’m very grateful that it actually could happen.
- What did you know about FTC before joining?
- In England, everyone knows of Ferencváros, people know that it is the largest and most famous Hungarian club. However, the details are not that known. Before I joined Fradi, I went through everything, I saw how passionate the fans are and that the club has great history, so I knew it would be a perfect choice for me.
- At that time, Hungary also had huge infrastructural backwardness. Coming from England, wasn’t the condition of the old stadium or training grounds strange?
- The contrast was big, that’s true, but I mainly looked at what a fantastic past the team had. For example, I loved playing in the old stadium, in that great atmosphere.
- What were the biggest differences between Hungary and England in football and life then?
- Hungarian football was very technical, but not as fast or as physical as English. Looking at everyday life, my family and I spent three fantastic years in Budapest. People welcomed me and my family, my two little sons, who at the time were attending English school. We didn’t want to leave Budapest.
- Do you remember your first match?
- I remember my first home game exactly. It’s probably not a coincidence since I scored two goals, we played in a great atmosphere, it really was a special day in my life.
The first and then the second goal of Shaw from 2:20
- You arrived to Fradi in the middle of the 2007/08 season, the team was in NB II at the time. Did you feel how much people were waiting for the team to get back to the first tier?
- I came here to help take Fradi back to the NB I. This didn’t work out in the first year, but I was aware that this was our most important task. Even knowing, as an older player, I wouldn’t play much in NB I afterward.
We felt how much the ascent would mean to the fans, so in the second season, we only talked to each other about not being able to fail now.
We were very concentrated, and then, if I remember correctly, we won the tournament with a 17-point advantage. It was a huge relief for everyone to finally succeed.
- Who were your favourite teammates back then?
- All the Hungarian players were very kind. Attila Dragóner was especially helpful, he always told me to let him know if I ever needed anything, he also regularly asked if me and my family were okay. But I also feel very lucky that I was able to play with Péter Lipcsei. He’s a great man and an amazing player, it would have been marvelous to be on the same team with him 10 years younger. He was excellent on the pitch, simply the perfect teammate for a striker.
- Did you have any negative experiences during your time at Fradi?
- No, none.
Of course, Ferencváros fans are passionate. That is, if you don’t play well or don’t win, they’ll let you know that’s the case right away.
But that was totally okay for me, that’s also part of being a footballer. If you’re playing in a big club, there’s definitely pressure there, and everyone expects you to win all the matches, that’s what every player needs to understand. And that should be the case with all the major clubs. I was prepared for this, I knew what was waiting for me, mainly because I had played in clubs with high expectations before. Plus, I’ve always enjoyed the pressure, I loved to play like that.
- Do you miss that kind of pressure now that you’re no longer a footballer?
- Yes, very much (laughs). It really did mean a lot to me. Now I work as a technical director, I like to watch the training progress, the players, but the atmosphere of the matches, that push is not in my life like before. Of course, I have to let go of that, as I still feel lucky to be able to work in football. We live in a beautiful place in Florida, I love what I do.
- Why did you finally leave Fradi?
- Newer, younger players have come, and I always knew that my main job was to get Fradi back to NB I. that was our goal. It was really hard to leave Budapest though, we didn’t want to move but being a football player, unfortunately, I had to do that quite a lot.
- What happened to you after?
- We returned to England for a short time, then I had the opportunity to play and coach a smaller team in New York. But in the end, I only spent a year there. The former manager of Orlando from the Major League Soccer was my ex-teammate at the time and offered me to be a coach in the youth section. We have been living here for eight years now, we love it here, but you never know what the future holds for you.
- Has the popularity of football in America been growing lately?
- Absolutely, MLS has become much bigger, stronger. Everything is very professional here, with more and more fans, and also new stadiums have been built. The league is constantly growing and there are still plenty of opportunities.
- What is your job exactly at Orlando?
- I am the technical director of all the junior teams. I have to keep an eye on the work of all coaches and players from the youngest age to 18 years old. I’m glad I work with young people, I help coaches, but I might one day make a transition to managerial or coaching work. Who knows, I might even return to Fradi.
- Can you keep track of what is going on with your former teammates and coaches from Ferencváros?
- Yes, to some extent. Matt Lowton, for example, plays football in the Premier League in Burnley and plays well, but I also talk to Bobby Davison and Craig Short as well.
- And do you pay attention to the results and news of Fradi?
- Of course, I remember when the club got a new stadium and also how successful the team was and that it was getting stronger. I’ve always paid attention to how Fradi was playing in the Europa League and the Hungarian National League. Moreover, me and my wife will be visiting Budapest this year to relax a bit there. I would definitely like to see the new arena because I haven’t had a chance to be there yet, and it would be great if I could attend a match as well.
- Many of our fans have good memories from you and remember you like that. Do you have a message for them?
- Thank you for welcoming me when I played there. I enjoyed every minute I could play in front of them, they were extremely passionate. It’s unbelievable how much they want their club to be successful, it’s always been a pleasure to see that. I am grateful to have been able to really feel at home in Fradi.
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