HE will become a household name if he plays against Arsenal on Monday, but Sutton United cult hero Wayne Shaw's larger-than-life persona masks a battle with his toughest opponent: depression.

The 46 year-old 'Roly-Poly Goalie’ became a social media sensation after being pictured on the bench during Sutton’s televised fourth-round victory against Leeds United.

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Sutton's reserve goalkeeper Wayne Shaw during the 1-0 win against Leeds United

Sutton’s goalkeeping No 2 has attracted media interest from as far afield as Russia, Mexico and the USA as he prepares for the FA Cup fifth-round tie against the Gunners.

“It’s absolutely crazy, NBC specifically asked for an interview with me,” chortles Shaw, whose face is being used to sell t-shirts, mobile phone covers and even chilli sauce in the build up to Arsenal’s visit.

“The lads should take the plaudits, I just sit there on the bench. But I think one picture caught me yawning and another was taken just after a I’d finished a pie! It’s all good banter. 

“I’ve gone from being 110 kilos in one place to 150 (23 stone, 8lb) in another!”

Shaw has lived in Totton ever since his mum and step-dad moved from Millbrook 34 years ago, when he was on Saints' radar as a promising schoolboy centre-half. 

His size was an issue in his Dell days, but he is down to a relatively svelte 19 stone 10lb after tipping the scales at more than 21 stone during his Conference South days with Eastleigh a decade ago.

“A couple of years ago I lost a load of weight, but it just creeps back on,” shrugs Shaw. “But then if I knock another stone off I won’t be the Roly-Poly Goalie!” 

Depression is an illness that seems incongruous with such a jovial character.

“I over-cooked myself with work, football and family life,” explains the former AFC Lymington and AFC Totton custodian, who lives with his wife Donna, a pre-school worker, and two daughters; Jasmine, 18 and Olivia, 16.

“Something had to give. It was hard times. With football it’s highs and lows. When you win it’s a massive high and when you lose it’s a massive low.

“It does affect you. There are probably a lot more people who have got it but don’t realise.

"Sometimes you can’t replenish your serotonin to a certain level, you hit a low.

“Trying to get out of bed in the morning is hard. You get massive lows. It’s a dread, really. It’s always there."

But Shaw, who was an ice cream salesman for longer than Arsene Wenger has been Arsenal's manager, has had a new lease of life since taking on his full-time role as Sutton's community liaison officer 18 months ago.

“I was on anti-depressants every day but I’ve been off them since I went to Sutton. I still have low days. I get mood swings, but everyone has those.

“It’s about being able to control it and I can control it. Exercise is key. It gives me a massive release of endorphins, which keeps me going.

“That feel-good factor afterwards is massive.”

A regular at Totton Health & Leisure’s spin classes, Shaw will be doing his first triathlon with fellow Sutton coach Ian Baird later this year and is also contemplating his first Tough Mudder with Donna.

The support from his good friend Paul Doswell, the Sutton manager, has been invaluable.

“Doz is the one who brought me through,” says Shaw. “He put a massive word in my head: perspective.

“I had a few issues five years ago, but the friendship goes back 30-odd years.

“He’s never let me down and I hope I’ve never let him down.”

Shaw first played under Doswell for Hampshire and they were strike partners on Sunday mornings.

But as a schoolboy Shaw had aspirations to play professionally as a centre-half at The Dell

He was a teammate of Matt Le Tissier and Alan Shearer before their swift rise into the first team, under the tutelage of Dave Merrington and Bob Higgins, the youth development officer who was charged with sexual offences against boys in 1992, before being cleared.

Shaw empathised when Le Tissier spoke about the naked massages he was given by alleged abuser Higgins, after the revelations from Dean Radford, at the end of last year.

“There were soap-water massages, which is what’s come out,” he said. “We thought it was normal, he had that hold over you. Looking back it was strange but he had our future in his hands. Whatever he said we went along with.

“If he told us to jump off a roof we would do it, just to prove we could do whatever he said.

It was Higgins who released Shaw, having used bizarre methods to help him try to lose a few pounds.

“I used to have to wear bin bags in training at the old Dell and after training do extra work just to try and get the weight off,” recalls Shaw.

“Sweat would be dripping on the floor. The lads would be slipping everywhere!

“Nowadays you get taught about dehydration but all I did was dehydrate myself. Another lad who was also quite big was made to wear a bin bag too.

“We also had to do 100 sit ups a night and he could tell if you hadn’t done them. He had that hold over you. Anything he said you had to do.”

Wayne Shaw and Alan Shearer (standing together in the back row, far right) played together in this Saints youth side in Sweden in 1986

Shaw was only 15 when he broke into Merrington’s all-conquering Saints Youth side. But he was already more than 15 stone and Higgins proved harder to win over.

“Dave was brilliant. I was only a schoolboy so it was quite an achievement to play at the time. You weren’t really supposed to play till you were 16 but I scored on my debut.

“Dave wanted me to play on the Tuesday, but it was a little bit different from Bob’s point of view.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. I got a phone call from him on the Monday when I got home from school: ‘You’re not playing tomorrow, you’re too big-headed.’

“I think it was his way of saying ‘ok, you’ve been there, we’re going to knock you down a level or two and see what the reaction is.’

“I can’t say that’s a bad thing but it plays with your mind. He was a great coach but was one of them who wanted to test your character by bringing you back down to earth.

“He said ‘it’s not going to happen for you’. They were going to release me, then they weren’t.

“He played mind games, but it probably did me a favour. It got me mentally strong enough for all the abuse and the banter.”

Shaw had a two-year apprenticeship with Reading, twice reaching the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals, before embarking on a remarkable non-league career, firstly with Basingstoke Town and then Bashley, where his goalkeeping career began.

While Shaw enjoys the Roly-Poly Goalie banter, he has had to put up with some vitriolic abuse.

He threatened to quit after being sent off for throwing the ball into the crowd during an FA Vase tie for AFC Lymington at Braintree in January 1998.

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Wayne with his AFC Lymington teammates and manager Derek Binns (left) in November 1996 

“We drew the game but in extra-time I ran to get the ball when someone said ‘who was your mother having sex with to produce someone like you?’

“That tipped me over the edge. They pay their money so they can say what they want to an extent. But when it gets personal it hits a nerve...the sending off was rescinded when the Hampshire FA got involved but it does get to you.

“At its worst it’s no different to racial abuse. I’m probably a freak of nature. People see me and say ‘look at the size of him, we’ll probably score five or six’.

“Then you go out and perform. Ninety-five per cent of people are on my side but there is the minority, especially with the social media side of things now. If you so make a mistake it’s on camera and all over the internet.”

That was the case at Kingstonian in December 2013, when Shaw reacted to abuse received before a Surrey County Cup match by confronting the hecklers.

He was sacked, with club chairman Bruce Elliott saying: “It is with a heavy heart that we have released Wayne from his position at the club.”

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Wayne earned his 'Roly-Poly Goalie' moniker for his banter with Weymouth fans in January 2006 (Picture by Brian Jung)

Shaw continued: “I’ve always taken the abuse with a pinch of salt but it is hurtful. My father-in-law gets a bit protective towards me.

“I say ‘let it roll’. If they have a go at me they’re not having a go at anyone else. Over the years I’ve learnt how to handle it but I’ve made mistakes along the way.

“With the amount of stick and abuse that comes your way sometimes you’re liable to snap, depending on what day you’ve had. We all make mistakes. But I’m in a better place now and can deal with all the stick.”

Shaw will have the nation on his side if he comes off the bench against the Gunners. 

Gander Green Lane will be rocking to He's Big, He's Round, He's Worth A Million Pounds...Wayne Shaw whether he does or not. 

Shearer is also likely to be there in his role as a BBC pundit.

“I haven’t Alan him for 30 years but it would be nice to catch up,” he says.

“He used to pop in for a coffee and a chat when I worked at the Polygon hotel, before going to Blackburn for £3 million or whatever it was.

“It would be good to see him again, hopefully we can have five minutes together on the mic!”

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Wayne and an ex-Saints side including fellow Sutton United coach Ian Baird (front fourth from right)

Shaw also played alongside the England legend’s fellow Geordies Tommy Widdrington and Neil Maddison as well as the likes of Rod Wallace and Kevin Phillips.

His Dell days meant he even got the chance to play against a 41 year-old Gianfranco Zola and a West Ham team including Frank McAvennie and Julian Dicks when he turned out for ex-Saints at a Masters tournament at Wembley Arena.

“It was live on Sky Sports so that was as big as it gets for me,” he laughs.

Shaw also has also Wembley cup final experience. Although he did not play in either game, he was with Wimborne Town when they won the 1992 FA Vase and Gosport Borough for their FA Trophy final in 2014.

He has even played in the FA Vase this season, one of his two appearances for Sydenhams Wessex League Alresford Town being a second-round 3-2 defeat at Kent outfit Corinthian FC.

His goalkeeping career began under former Bashley boss Trevor Parker in the early Nineties, during a loan spell from Basingstoke.

“They had a goalkeeping dilemma so I was told to get myself a pair of gloves as I might be needed in goal on the Saturday,” he recalls. “We played Salisbury at the Old Victoria Ground in the Southern League and won 1-0 - I’ve been there ever since!”

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Wayne played for hometown club AFC Totton in the early 2000s

Shaw enjoyed several years of Wessex League success with AFC Lymington under Derek Binns, before moving to AFC Totton in 1999 because of his growing family commitments.

But his best days were under Doswell at Eastleigh, where his career highlight was a crucial save in the 2005 Ryman Premier League play-off final that the Spitfires won 2-1 against Leyton to secure their promotion to Conference South.

“I should have punched clear a corner kick but tried catching it... it dropped to Manny Williams, who hit an over head kick.

"Somehow I managed to get down. It hit me on the arm and then the underside of the bar.

“It stopped us going 2-1 down and we went straight down the other end and scored the winner with a Salesy (Paul Sales) header.

“They were good times at Eastleigh but I’ve had good times everywhere I’ve been and met a lot of great people. There have been more highs than lows.”

Shaw is now loving life at Sutton, where as well as being the reserve goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach he is responsible for the hiring out and maintenance of the 3G pitch that Arsenal will grace 48 hours hence.

One of only two full-time staff at Gander Green Lane, along with physio Bobby Childs, he is loving the change of scene after more than two decades working for Carlo’s Ice Creams, his aunt and uncle’s business, in West Wellow.

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Wayne worked for Carlo's Ice Creams for more than 20 years

“I was 44 and remember thinking if I’m still here at 45 I’ll be here for the rest of my life,” he explains.

“It was different and I enjoyed it but it meant working a lot of weekends and late summer evenings.

“It was full-on and I got to a crossroads. Then, three months before my 45th birthday, Doz told me he was getting a 3G pitch put in at Sutton and that they needed someone who was a bit jovial around the place to put a smile on people’s faces.

“He made a job along the way for me, really. We have in excess of 200 people through a day, it’s really taking off. Once a week I help schoolkids who have special needs with their co-ordination through sport. It makes me realise how lucky I am to be really active.

“We’ll have the academy on-site next year with another 80-100 lads coming in each day.

“We also groundshare with Sutton Rovers, who play in the Combined Counties League (a similar standard to the Wessex League), Wimbledon Ladies and a disability team that I’m an ambassador for.”

Now the likes of Theo Walcott, who scored a pre-season screamer for Saints against Shaw as a 15 year-old, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are preparing to make the transition from Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena to Sutton’s artificial turf.

If Sutton manage the unthinkable against Arsenal, it will take the club to a new level entirely.

First-choice goalkeeper Ross Worner has conceded ten goals in Sutton’s last three games, all of which they have lost.

But those defeats have all been away from Gander Green Lane, where Sutton are unbeaten in nine matches, six of which they have won.

“It would have been great to play at the Emirates but we’ve got the best home record and the worst away record in the National League,” smiles Shaw.

“We’re just going to enjoy the occasion and hopefully do the league proud.

“Whatever happens we’re guaranteed to be in the quarter-final draw!”