Q: Who is the biggest and brightest Chelsea fan in the land? A: Shaun Wallace...

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The Independent Football

You might think that Shaun Wallace, BBC TV's newest "Mastermind", would be content with what he has just achieved. But the 44-year-old barrister from Wembley, the quiz programme's first black champion, has another ambition. "I would love to take my trophy to Stamford Bridge and say to my Chelsea heroes, 'Here, boys, here's the first trophy, get used to winning things like this'."

Naturally, Wallace will be watching those heroes in action against Arsenal at Highbury this afternoon, but it will be from a seat in his living room. "I can never really afford to go to the games," he explained. "Although I am a barrister I am a thin-cat lawyer and have never earned much money." Last year it was around £25,000.

There is another reason. "I used to stand on The Shed with my mate Paul Ryan as 14-year-olds. One day there was a bit of a ruck on the terrace, this guy kept kicking me so I kicked him back. The problem in the Seventies was hooligans, so I stopped going. But I have been a Chelsea fan since the age of seven. I cried when we got relegated from the old First Division in the play-off against Middlesbrough in May 1988." And, presumably, he cheered when they were promoted again the following year.

Frank Lampard is Wallace's favourite player. "I love that man, he has really stepped up to the plate. When football writers are giving out awards they should look no further than Frankie. But our biggest advantage is that we have a great manager in Jose Mourinho. I used to love Claudio Ranieri, but we have stepped up a gear now. I call him Jose God. He is not intimidated by anything or anybody. The man is a class act, he could earn £10 million a year elsewhere.

"When you think about him starting out as a translator for Bobby Robson it's like going from a log cabin to the White House. He was so happy when his club Porto won the Champions' League final last season. Then straight away he took off his medal because he had a different challenge coming up in west London. He is proof, along with Arsène Wenger and Gérard Houllier, that you don't have to be a top player to be a great manager.

"Then there is Sir Clive Whats-his-name." Woodward, I remind him. "Yeah, Woodward, that's him. They were deriding him because he was thinking about moving into football from rugby. But it's all about opinions and achievements, and he could tell them, 'Me win the World Cup'."

Wallace has medals, too. Two of them, collected as a member of the Sunday-football team Cool Oak Rangers for winning the Action Sport Cup at Wembley Stadium in 1991 and again in 1995. "I am a striker, they call me Lord Lucan because I'm missing in the box." Three years ago Wallace seriously damaged ankle ligaments, but the injury was so well repaired that he is still playing. "And I plan to keep on playing until I have no legs or can't walk."

Wallace had those two medals in his pocket for good luck in the Mastermind final. Not, he added, that he feels he needs luck. "I am a very confident person. Growing up, I was like Muhammad Ali. I was going round telling everybody I was going to play for England in the 1986 World Cup and partner Gary Lineker, because I really thought I could do it. You have to believe in yourself. Look at Chris Waddle, used to work in a sausage factory and finished up the best winger at the 1990 World Cup."

He has, he confided, four sports- people he adores. "First Ali, my inspiration. Second, Bjorn Borg, cool and good with it. Third, Bobby Moore. Every time I go into a competition I think of him." Shaun's fourth choice turns out to be a tie between Gerd Müller - "the greatest striker who ever lived" - and Lineker. "Forty goals in one season for Everton, say no more."

Wallace asks me which team I support. Nottingham Forest, I tell him, which prompts him to recall another idol by the name of Brian Clough. "If you talk the talk like he did you have to be able to walk the walk, and he could do that. He walked on the River Trent." Though Shaun does not mention him, Don Revie might have been someone else he tries to emulate, especially in the matter of scouting the opposition and compiling dossiers. "My winning strategy in Mastermind was that I knew who all the other contestants were but they didn't know who I was."

Just how much Shaun Wallace knows is what lots of people have been trying to find out ever since last Sunday. "I've just been turned over on Radio 5 Live," he admitted. "Couldn't answer the presenter's question, so I told her, 'You won fair and square'." Could he, I wondered, name the members of the last Chelsea team to win the League, back in 1955? "I can only think of a couple. Roy Bentley of course, and I am sure Ron Greenwood was involved. And Ted Drake was manager."

Not bad for a champion trying to get a break from that sort of thing. But in case anyone should ask him again, there were also Peter Sillett, Stan Wicks, Frank Blunstone, Derek Saunders, Les Stubbs, Charlie Thomson, Bill Robertson, Jim Lewis, Johnny McNichol and Seamus O'Connell. But definitely not Muhammad Ali or Gary Lineker.

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