We continue our countdown of the greatest players in Aston Villa's history with a striker who, despite helping the club win the European Cup, could have gone on to even bigger things were it not for injuries.
18. Gary Shaw
Born: Kingshurst, 21 January 1961
Aston Villa career: 1977-1988
Appearances: 213 Goals: 79
A homegrown wonderkid with talent in abundance, Shaw could well have gone on to become one of the finest players of his era had injuries not cruelly cut him down in his prime.
Born in Kingshurst, the promising striker signed professional terms with Aston Villa on his 18th birthday in 1979 after a two-year apprenticeship and was a first-team regular by the 1979-80 campaign, scoring a team-leading 12 goals in all competitions.
He took an even bigger step forward the following season after forming a formidable strike partnership with new signing Peter Withe, netting 18 times in 40 top-flight appearances to help guide his local club to their first League Championship in 71 years and win the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
12 months later, the pacey front man’s talent was further recognised when he was named European Young Football of the Year after starring throughout Villa’s run to European Cup glory, but a spot in England’s 1982 World Cup squad just eluded him.
Nevertheless, after finishing the 1982-83 season as the club’s top scorer once again with 24 goals and adding a European Super Cup winner’s medal to his collection, most expected Shaw to be in the intentional picture imminently.
What could not be accounted for, though, were injuries. Villa’s golden boy suffered a devastating one to his knee in a game at Nottingham Forest in September 1983, and while he eventually returned to action during the 1985-86 season, he was never the same again.
Six operations in four years could not save his claret and blue career, and after making just 17 first-team appearances during that period, the Birmingham native was forced to move on in the summer of 1988 when his contract came to an end.
He continued playing for four more years, taking in brief spells at Danish side Kjøbenhavns Boldklub, Austria’s SK Klagenfurt, Walsall, Kilmarnock, Shrewsbury Town and Hong Kong-based Ernest Borel FC, respectively, but it was an unceremonious end to a career which once held so much promise.
As his former captain Dennis Mortimer told the Guardian in 2006: “I have no doubt that [were it not for the injuries] he would have gone on to be a truly world-class player, a Kenny Dalglish.”
Aston Villa: top 30 players