Ryan Shawcross: The Manchester United & Tottenham Target Deserves Respect

The former Manchester United player and current Stoke City captain is the best young defender in the country on current form. Forget what you thought you knew, here's why he'd be an asset to any team...
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The former Manchester United player and current Stoke City captain is the best young defender in the country on current form. Forget what you thought you knew, here's why he'd be an asset to any team...

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Ryan Shawcross: The Manchester United & Tottenham Target Deserves Respect...

He didn’t have far to travel last Monday.

Just half-an-hour down the A500 and then the A50, to meet up with the rest of the England squad at St. George’s Park, which is now the second most important sporting facility in Staffordshire. Ryan Shawcross captains the team that plays at the first, obviously.

Post-1992 football leaves me a bit cold to be honest. That must seem a pretty daft assertion based on the fact that for the last 51 months my club has played in the Premier League, this after watching them at over 70 league grounds, throughout three and a half decades, of mediocrity-at-best.

Why?

Footballing snobbery, mainly.

Plus the immediacy of the various media on offer to offer instant opinions to many who simply don’t deserve them. It seems post-1992 has spawned a generation of supporters who conveniently forgot that their clubs used to tackle opposition players and make it hard for them, all whilst actually being at the game itself and not having to re-mortgage the house to do so.

I’d rather concentrate on Shawcross himself, as many outside Stoke-on-Trent seem not to see just how good a player this lad has become. Or perhaps they simply don’t want to see?

In the years since my club reached the supposed mecca of the Premier League, one player has encapsulated all that we see as good about our club, and a reflection of how the club has progressed both on and off the pitch – Ryan Shawcross.

Those with blinkers on about Stoke City and/or Shawcross, or those with their own version of that simply dreadful injury to Aaron Ramsey, might as well stop reading now as opinions are rarely changed in the mainly one-eyed world of football, and this article isn’t meant to do that.

Nor is its purpose to dredge up and focus on that horrific day in February 2010, which actually saw one of our players first on the scene to offer genuine comfort and support to the stricken Arsenal midfielder, followed by 99% of Stoke’s support giving heartfelt applause and sympathy as he was carried from the pitch, and Shawcross leaving the field in tears, and not for himself.

It’s great to see Aaron Ramsey back playing for both club and country, and that game has been rinsed now, totally rinsed by every supporter offering their two ‘penneth on what they saw or heard. I’d rather concentrate on Shawcross himself, as many outside Stoke-on-Trent seem not to see just how good a player this lad has become. Or perhaps they simply don’t want to see?

A career based on actually defending like a defender should, rather than having a five-haircuts-in-one barnet looking good whilst passing it five yards, but not being able or wanting to block heroically in the box

Shawcross’s development - on current form the best young DEFENDER in the country - has not been a surprise to many. Properly schooled at Manchester United in his formative years, young Ryan came to the Britannia Stadium on loan as a relatively unknown 19 year old, in the 2007 Stoke side trying to get out of the Championship.

Scoring in your first game, an away win at Cardiff, always helps. Yet it was obvious to all and sundry amongst the 14k crowds that we used to have, that we had a proper defender in the making. Shawcross was a unit, already. Sometimes a little clumsy and unsure in possession, but one who seemed to contain the same DNA as local Meir-lad Denis Smith in the 70’s, who himself had managed to pick up over 20 fractures and 200 stitches in a career based on actually defending like a defender should, rather than having a five-haircuts-in-one barnet looking good whilst passing it five yards, but not being able or wanting to block heroically in the box.

Five months later and Shawcross was stolen from United by Tony Pulis for a million quid. Unbelievable business from the capped one, and despite Sir Alex Ferguson knowing what a cracking lad he had on his books, he also knew Ryan had to be playing. Would it surprise anyone if, God forbid, Ryan follows Potteries legend Jimmy Greenhoff in zooming up the A34 in the future? It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone: because if you open your eyes and allow yourself not to be taken in, then you will see Ryan Shawcross is an outstanding defender.

His partnership with Abdoulaye (my Lord) Faye in 2008/09 was simply breathtaking. Even General Custer wouldn’t have fancied playing in the back four for us that season, as we survived our first season since promotion. Siege mentalities and sieges on our goal were the order of the day. Whilst Faye took the plaudits, Shawcross took every inch of his partner’s spirit, positional play and leadership.

He’s become the only Stoke player to lead his team out in an FA Cup final. Now, he has become the archetypal first-name-down-on-the-team-sheet and one of the very best defenders in the Premier League

Shawcross became a man that season. Since then, he’s become the only Stoke player to lead his team out in an FA Cup final. Now, he has become the archetypal first-name-down-on-the-team-sheet and one of the very best defenders in the Premier League.

Blessed with more pace than many give him credit for, there are few who outrun him. With our Berlin Wall (Robert Huth) alongside him, it’s not hard to see why we concede from so few headers. Yet, defending is all about being in the right place at the right time. Our captain invariably is – isn’t that what England might just need when we rock up in Warsaw next Tuesday?

It’s not the first time the Stoke giant has been called up for the national squad. Days after the Ramsey incident, he joined the England squad ahead of their game against Egypt, where the crestfallen Shawcross was given a massive show of support by the England set-up with special doffed cap going to Messrs Rooney and Gerrard who were, apparently, quite brilliant with him.

The truth is our captain shuns any limelight and is a solid, family-loving bloke. Apologies if that might not fit into the stereotype many will have of him

Ryan Shawcross is a quiet, introverted lad. Whilst I’m not making a case out for him helping old dears across the road, fearlessly fighting crime in North Staffordshire, or even for those who hold grudges or against him to change their stance. But the truth is our captain shuns any limelight and is a solid, family-loving bloke. Apologies if that might not fit into the stereotype many will have of him or Stoke City FC, but that’s your prerogative.

Mine? It’s simply paying tribute to a player who has been absolutely immense for my club, and mirroring the words of someone who knows a bit about defending, playing for England and punditry, Gary Neville….

I have seen Ryan Shawcross play since he was 16. Coming through the Manchester United system, I know he has been brought up in the correct manner. He is a good football player and deserves respect for that. He is a great story and the fact he is in the England squad this week is something I am proud of."

Shawcross has faced many hurdles in his short career, but his strength of character has overcome the finger pointing and character assassinations, as he has quietly gone about his business in possibly the most under-rated central defensive partnership in the league.

His next challenge is to develop his game in possession of the football, something that has improved greatly in recent times. Yet, Shawcross only turned 25 last week and will only get better and better, especially with a year’s worth of European experience and England squad training tucked under his belt, too.

But his bread and butter is defending, and hopefully Ryan Shawcross will get the chance to show just how good he is at that for his country. Soon.

More great stories from the catacombs of the Emirates Stadium

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Jordy Clasie: The “New Xavi” On His Way To Tottenham Hotspur

Joao Moutinho: The Portuguese Engine Who Has Become Tottenham Hotspurs’ Must Have Midfielder

Reinventing Rooney: Why It’s Time To Move The Manchester United Star Into Midfield

Manchester United Target Tom Ince Can Be England’s Next No. 10

Revealed: The Evidence Of The Manchester United Referee Conspiracy

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