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Mark Holmes' Blog

Solid Shawcross can shine for England

Thursday 4th October 2012 12:29

Shawcross: Rewarded for fine form

Shawcross: Rewarded for fine form

Mark Holmes welcomes Ryan Shawcross' England call-up and believes the Stoke defender is far better than he is given credit for.

Two and a half years after his last call-up to the England squad, Shawcross has been named in Roy Hodgson's 25-man party for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland.

Now at Stoke, Shawcross started his career in the Manchester United Academy, where he had impressed in various age groups before progressing to the reserve side and then enjoying a successful loan spell at Royal Antwerp.

Sir Alex Ferguson later admitted he would have kept Shawcross at Old Trafford had he known Gerard Pique would push for a return to Barcelona, but at the time it must have seemed a safe decision to allow him join Stoke with Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Wes Brown and the up-and-coming Jonny Evans also at his disposal.

United's loss was certainly Stoke's gain - he scored on his debut to earn the Potters an away win at Cardiff on the first day of the 2007/08 season, was signed permanently for £1million in January and then played a starring role in the following campaign as Tony Pulis led the team to the Premier League.

Shawcross struggled initially following the step up, losing his place to Ibrahima Sonko after their opening-day 3-1 defeat at Bolton, but was immense after winning his place back before the turn of the year.

His performances led to links with a number of top Premier League clubs in the summer but he remained at the Britannia Stadium and enjoyed such an outstanding first half to his second season in the top flight that he was rewarded with a call-up to the England squad on February 27, 2010.

Earlier that same day, if you didn't already know, Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey had his leg broken following a challenge by Shawcross. The centre-back was an unused substitute for the friendly against Egypt a few days later and has not made a single squad since.

Has he become a worse player? Absolutely not. Has he spent a lot of time out injured? No, he has missed just four Premier League games in the last two seasons as Stoke's captain.

Anyone that watches Shawcross on a regular basis will tell you he is extremely quick, brave, superb in the air, a great tackler, an organiser and a leader. He is Stoke's most reliable and consistent player, and one who in my opinion should have been picked for England many times before.

Many that do not watch him every week, however, think of him as slow, clumsy, poor on the ball - a liability and not international class. Are their opinions shaped by that one tackle back two and a half years ago? Who knows, but it certainly seems as though public opinion has hindered Shawcross' international prospects until now.

That is hopefully in the past, though, and Shawcross' place in Roy Hodgson's latest squad, on his 25th birthday, is reward for a phenomenal run of form throughout last season and at the start of this.

His performances against Manchester City and Chelsea in particular - he produced an amazing last-kick clearance off the line to deny City a winner and then stood out as Stoke came close to keeping out Chelsea at Stamford Bridge - will have convinced Hodgson of his defensive qualities, but he is also far better on the ball than many people realise.

He is the man Stoke rely on to find Peter Crouch when they want to go long - Robert Huth always passes to his centre-half partner to start an attack - and the Potters' softening of style this season should help appease the stats fanatics, too - Shawcross completed 95% of his passes in that recent game at Chelsea.

It is also worth pointing out that, while Joleon Lescott and Gary Cahill struggle to hold down regular places, Shawcross is certain to play in every game he is available for. He is without doubt Stoke's most key player.

The only slight criticism I would make of him is that he sometimes rushes his clearances, but as a defender I believe he is the closest thing to John Terry England will find.

Hopefully he gets the chance to finally prove himself to the rest of the nation against San Marino next week.

You can find me on Twitter @Homzy.



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