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Shaun Teale On Going From Non-League To Achieving Wembley Success With Aston Villa

Shaun Teale On Going From Non-League To Achieving Wembley Success With Aston Villa

An interview with Shaun Teale, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You played for Southport, Weymouth and Bournemouth in the early years of your career. How important were those clubs in your development?

“My non-League days at Southport and Weymouth set me up well for moving into the professional game at Bournemouth when I turned 24.

“All of the clubs in my early years of playing football gave me the opportunity to solve problems within games and learn about myself as a player.

“I started out as a left back before, ultimately moving to centre back where I played for the majority of my career.

“When I moved to centre back, I was not fully aware of the position, but I was able to settle into the position by getting games under my belt against tough, former professionals in competitive games.

“It was sink or swim and thankfully, I was able to show that I was good enough to play at the level, look after myself and progress into the football league.”

You moved to Aston Villa in 1991 after two years at Bournemouth. What was your reaction to the interest from Villa and subsequently, moving there?

“It was a strange one because at the end of my second season with Bournemouth, there was talk of interest from Wimbledon and Reading as well as a few other clubs.

“Aston Villa was never on the radar as far as I was aware, and I went on holiday to Lanzarote with a few friends.

“There was a problem with the plane coming home so I had to stay for an extra day before flying home so I phoned Bournemouth to apologise for the delay and to tell them.

“It is safe to say that Harry Redknapp – Bournemouth manager at the time – was not happy with me coming back late but he understood that it was outwith my control.

“A day later than planned, I landed back in the U.K. and my agent phoned me just after I had landed to tell me that he would be meeting me at Dean Court in the morning.

“I asked him why he was meeting me at the stadium and, he then told me that we were to go and meet Villa manager Ron Atkinson to discuss the possibility of signing for Aston Villa under him.

“I was in total shock as it came out of left field, although, I was delighted because I knew that Villa was a massive club so for them was a no-brainer and I was eager to get going after that initial meeting with Ron.”

You played in the old First Division and in the Premier League for Aston Villa from 1991 to 1995. You actually came close to winning the Premier League in the first season of the division. What was that season like? 

“That season was incredible for us, but I still believe that we blew our opportunity and handed the title to Manchester United.

“We were playing good football and we looked like the team who would go on to win it for parts of the season before Dalian Atkinson got injured and Dean Saunders stopped scoring as regularly as he had been doing previously.

“Those factors really affected us and we went on a winless run that ended our momentum and saw us finish as runners-up to United by 10 points. It was a massive, missed opportunity.”

Who were the big characters in the Aston Villa dressing room under Ron Atkinson in the early nineties?

“We had numerous characters who drove the team forward on and off the pitch.

“Dalian Atkinson and Dean Saunders, as our forwards, were big characters and big performers for us.

“Dwight Yorke was the backup striker to those two at that time and he went on to have a great career too.

“Kevin Richardson was another leader within the group who oozed winning given his experiences of being a part of title-winning sides with Everton and Arsenal.

“The one and only Paul McGrath in defence was an absolute joy to play alongside and spend time with.

“Overall, we were a strong group that stood together. It was a great time to be at Aston Villa.”

Villa 1994 Stickers

Aston Villa in the Merlin 1994 Premier League sticker album. Photo credit: James Nalton

You won the League Cup in 1994 by beating Manchester United at Wembley. How proud were you to lift silverware at Aston Villa?

“We went into that final believing that we could match Manchester United. Ron brought young Graham Fenton into the starting eleven and lined us up with five players in midfield to take the fight to Manchester United.

“That change saw Dalian Atkinson play wide left and Tony Daley play wide right supporting Dean Saunders as our lone striker.

“That way, we could get in behind Manchester United with the added man in the centre of midfield helping us to get the ball wide to exploit them with the pace that we had in the wide areas.

“The plan worked dividends as Dalian Atkinson put us 1-0 up inside the opening half hour and we never looked back from there.

“Dean Saunders scored a double in between a Mark Hughes goal for United to seal a 3-1 for us on the day.

“We were on a roll that day and we thoroughly deserved our victory and to lift the trophy. It felt like retribution for us after the way we lost the league to them in the previous season.

“That day at Wembley will live with me forever because it brought back the memories of my time in non-league football to the forefront of my mind.

“Every professional dreams of winning a major trophy at Wembley and to achieve that was nothing short of amazing.

“Lifting the trophy at such an iconic stadium made me feel on top of the world.”

You played in Scottish football at Motherwell from 1998 to 2000. How did football in Scotland compare with your experiences of English football?

“The Motherwell move came about after I had left Tranmere. I was on loan in Hong Kong from Tranmere because I needed out of the environment at Tranmere.

“The standard of football in Hong Kong was not as intense as life in English football so I wanted a new challenge and the opportunity at Motherwell presented itself to me.

“Brian McClair recommended me to Motherwell, and I signed a deal at the club after playing in a trial game.

“My time at the club ended on a sour note with the financial issues around the club at that time but I enjoyed playing for the club in my two years there.

“Scottish football was of a good standard, and I enjoyed the challenge.”

Finally, Shaun, you have just released your autobiography titled ‘Here, there and everywhere.’ What can fans expect from the book?

“It is an honest reflection on everything that happened to me within the game of football.

“It is well documented that I fell out with Ron Atkinson at Villa and Harry Redknapp at Bournemouth, but I have never told my side of the story from those times.

“So, it is my opportunity to tell my story and set the record straight. Football fans who want to read about the reality of life in football will enjoy it as I do not hold anything back.”