For four years we, as Stoke fans, have been waiting for the news that the club have accepted a bid for Ryan Shawcross. Ever since his impeccable display in a home win over Arsenal in 2008 his progress has been steady, yet consistent and with his second consecutive England call-up in the bag, maybe it is finally the right time to let him fly the nest.
This comes as Tony Pulis recently said that the club won’t stand in the way of Shawcross realising his dream to play at the highest level. Previously the club’s stance has always been to warn off the circulating predators of Liverpool and Tottenham by attaching a hefty price tag to their prize asset, while Pulis works on turning the raw Shawcross into a polished diamond. Now this has been achieved, the change in stance may be an acceptance of the inevitable.
At 25 Shawcross has played over 100 Premier League games, captained a well-established side for two seasons, played in an FA Cup final and a European competition, and that is with his best years still ahead of him. Now he has been called into an England squad for the second consecutive time and now awaits his international debut. With the lack of depth in top class young defenders in world football, and Manchester City and Chelsea struggling for top quality centre backs, while his former employees Manchester United struggle with an annual injury crisis, you can bet Shawcross is in all managers’ thoughts.
He has the credentials, but does he have the talent? Many will doubt this. Like Stoke, Shawcross has an unfair stigma of being an ugly, anti-football yob. More of a second rower then a centre back. But that is now becoming more and more of an out dated cliché. Shawcross is a superb reader of the game, sense danger and has the ability to snuff it out. His aerial skills are up with the best defenders in the league, both attacking and defending wise and his composure on the ball has increased tenfold in recent seasons. He isn’t the fastest defender around and may still not be completely confident with the ball at his feet, while still remaining at times a little clumsy.
However his negativities are getting better and his positives are improving even more. Stoke are keen for Shawcross to sign a new contract and I feel he will, however come the end of the season I would be surprised if one top club doesn’t come in for him. My attitude wouldn’t be one of anger or bitterness, but one of acceptance and pride that Stoke have produced a fine English talent ready to achieve high. Manchester United may have produced the rough diamond that they let slip through the net, but Stoke have polished him and it now may be time for him to show how brightly he can shine.