Ryan Shawcross: Stoke’s Lionheart

When Ryan Shawcross departed Manchester United just under five years ago for Stoke City, he had Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic ahead of him in the pecking order.

Ryan Shawcross: Stoke’s Lionheart

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October 12th, 2012

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As Gary Neville noted this week, he was all potential at Old Trafford. “I remember playing with him when he was 16. He was a raw talent but someone who really wanted to make it. He wanted to use the last ounce of his energy to become a professional footballer.”

He was never going to get a proper chance behind two central defenders who were just reaching the peak of their powers together. He made the no doubt difficult decision to depart the biggest club in the world, and as he received his second call-up to an England squad there were few eyebrows raised at his inclusion. He is a better player than he is given credit for – especially given that he performs so consistently for a side as unfashionable as Stoke.

Ryan Shawcross has come a long way from the youngster that was initially loaned to The Potters  in August 2007 for the season. Four months later and with the loan only halfway through, Tony Pulis had seen enough in Shawcross to encourage him to part with £1 million and make the situation permanent. At 25, he is now every part the assured, experienced and solid Premier League centre-back. He reads the game superbly, has good pace, heads the ball well and remains strong in the challenge.

Of course, his journey to the England squad and a potential England cap hasn’t been plain sailing. There have been one or two rushes of blood to the head in past years but since being made the club captain, he has raised his game even further.

It is even arguable that with England’s match with San Marino looming, Shawcross is a front runner as a long-term replacement for John Terry in defence. His rivals for the coveted spot – Gary Cahill and Joleon Lescott – are struggling to start for their club sides, and with Ryan heading into the game in good form he has given Roy Hodgson one or two things to ponder.

He’ll also give Wales manager Chris Coleman one less thing to think about should he be handed his first appearance in England’s white. Growing up and going to school in Wales has meant that the Stoke defender is eligible for both football sides; and even as recently as a month ago, he had a meeting about switching his allegiances to the red of Wales.

Even though Shawcross reaffirmed his desire to play for England in those meetings, there remained a feeling he’d eventually play with a Red Dragon on his chest. That thinking is now gone.

At 25 and with over 150 Premier League appearances to his name, Ryan Shawcross is ready for the next step in his career to the international stage. With John Terry’s shock retirement from the England set-up, there was a feeling that Rio Ferdinand would return. In his place instead, Ryan Shawcross has stepped now ready to reach his own prime.

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