In September 1948, Floriana acquired the famous English international full-back George Shaw as player-coach. Before coming to Malta, Shaw had played in the English First Division for 15 years.
Shaw was born on October 13, 1899 in Swindon. He started his career with Doncaster in 1919 but the following year he was sent on loan to Gillingham with whom he made his league debut.
In 1924, he returned to Doncaster but only played 26 times for the first team before he moved to Huddersfield Town in 1924 for a fee of £1,700 which, in those days, was a small fortune.
Huddersfield, led by the great Herbert Chapman, were at the time passing through the greatest era in their history. During Shaw’s stay, the club won the championship twice.
In 1926, Shaw moved to West Bromwich Albion for another substantial fee and in 1931, he helped the Midlands club win the FA Cup. His lion-hearted performance in the final earned him an England cap. Shaw played his only game for England against Scotland on April 4, 1932 when he was almost 33-years-old.
In 1935, West Brom reached the cup final again, but this time Shaw had to content himself with a losers’ medal.
Three years later, Albion were relegated but Shaw remained loyal to the club until 1939 when the war interrupted his career and he retired from professional football.
Shaw, however, did not retire completely from the game and between 1938 and 1948 he was player-coach for non-league Stalybridge City and Worcester City.
Shaw did not play much football in Malta. He did not need to, given the quality of the players Floriana possessed in those days. The famous crop of Ajax youngsters were maturing into a formidable team which only needed the expert guidance of someone like Shaw to bring it to fruition.
In 1948-49, Shaw’s first season with Floriana, the team had a disappointing campaign. They finished fourth, five points adrift of champions Sliema Wanderers. In the FA Trophy, however, the Greens finally struck top form.
After an impressive run in which they beat St George’s 4-0, Ħamrun Spartans 2-1 and Luqa St Andrew’s 8-1, the Greens met the Wanderers in the final, played on June 16, 1949.
Shaw must have been very proud of his boys as they carried out his carefully-prepared moves and tactics. Floriana outplayed the champions and the 5-1 scoreline reflected their superiority.
Discarding their usual pretty tip-tapping moves, the Greens adopted cup-tie tactics. They played the ball first-time with accurate crosses to the centre which constantly caught the Sliema defenders on the wrong foot.
Lolly Borg, then still in his teens, scored a hat-trick with the other goals coming from Charlie Azzopardi and an own goal by E. Borg.
Sliema could only reply with an own goal from Alamango.
Season 1949-50 was the highlight of Shaw’s short but eventful stay in Malta. Under his guidance, the Ajax finally blossomed and matured into, perhaps, the greatest Maltese team ever.
The Greens won their first honour of the season on March 26 when they beat Sliema 2-0 to land their first championship in 13 years. Next on the Greens’ agenda was the Cassar Cup. In the final, they beat Ħamrun 2-1.
But Floriana’s ambitions were not yet fully satisfied as their eyes were now focused on the FA Trophy.
Their quest for an elusive triple could not have started on a better note when, in the quarter-finals, they ousted Sliema 3-1.
Floriana showed that they were worthy of the title of league champions and Cassar Cup winners and, on this form nobody in sight could deprive them of the FA Trophy which they lifted after beating St George’s 3-1 in the final.
Shaw stayed in Malta up to the middle of the 1950-51 season when he handed the reins of the team to Joe Griffiths.
He returned to Doncaster in England where he died on March 10, 1973, aged 73.
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