A humble hero

Danny, who runs Midlands Memorabila, embarked on a labour of love last summer to track down all of Aston Villa’s 1982 First Division title winning favourites to sign souvenirs.

And when it came to a certain greengrocer in Galway, Danny found a modest and reluctant legend whose pride at playing for the Villa burned brighter than ever.

It was Danny who contacted me to check I had heard the news of Eamon Deacy's death this morning with a text message simply containing the word 'gutted'.

Yet his story confirms that the claret and blue family are not only mourning the loss of a fine footballer, but also a true gentleman.

"There was one former player I was desperate to meet because, every time his name came up during a signing with one or two of his ex-colleagues, there would be smiles instantly.

Often they would be followed by a story told in an Irish accent about an innocent young teetotal from Galway who, after writing to Ron Saunders for a trial, found himself in a dressing room with some streetwise characters who liked the odd practical joke and a drink or two.

We had a phone number for Eamonn in Ireland which he had recently changed, so we had no way of contacting him to let him know of our plans. One evening, I decided to turn detective with information gleaned from Tony Morley and Google.

I put a file together containing maps to his home address and details for shops where he may be working and drove to Holyhead to catch the ferry to Ireland.

Of all the days to choose, it just happened to be the one of The Queen's visit to Dublin! I eventually got through all the security around the ferry-port at 5am and hit the motorway.

By 9am, I was parked up in Galway town centre and, after a 20-minute walk, found one of the shops I was looking for.

The first person I saw was the man himself! He was shocked when I explained why I was there and was so humble that someone would travel all that way to see him just to get some shirts and prints signed.

I had to get Tony Morley to confirm my credentials over the phone, then I arranged to meet Eamonn after work, so he could take me to his house.

Once we started the signing, Eamonn was really keen to hear about how all the other lads were and told of his happiness and pride at playing for Villa at that time. He was keen to show me his son's bedroom as it was kitted out in claret and blue.

I have to mention the amazing hospitality of the Deacy family. Mary, Eamonn's wife, made me a delicious meal and, while I was tucking into that, she even prepared a packed lunch for me for the ferry journey home.

When it was time to go, Eamonn insisted on showing me to the motorway - a ten-mile drive.

When I was dozing off on the ferry later, I found it hard comprehending what had happened over the last 24 hours. Eamonn made a big impression on me and I can see exactly why he is remembered with such affection by his former team-mates."



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