It is often forgotten that on Saturday February 27th 2010, there were two victims at the Britannia Stadium.
The pantomime villain in all of this was Ryan Shawcross, mention that name to most football fans and all they will say is ‘Ramsey’. The Stoke defender, was at the time, one of England’s best up and coming centre backs and was incidentally called up to the national squad for the first time that night. He didn’t get on the pitch, but it seemed many call-ups and caps were to follow.
However, ever since that dreadful incident two years ago, Shawcross’s development as a player has been stopped in its tracks. I, and most Potters fans, would have expected that by now Shawcross would be playing for one of the top 6 clubs, and a regular in the England squad. But the former Manchester United player hasn’t made the exact progress we predicted.
Last season he was made captain, after the dip in form of cult hero Abdoulaye Faye, and it was a bold move by Pulis to do so and one that I questioned. Shawcross, perhaps further burdened by responsibility, had arguably his poorest season to date with Stoke. He was a solid 6 out of ten for the whole season, where as his centre-back partner Robert Huth constantly over shadowed him at both ends of the pitch. Ryan looked a man slightly short on confidence, despite leading us to our first FA cup final in the clubs history. He was solid, but never as spectacular as he expected and hoped.
But this season he has grown, finally putting the Ramsey incident behind him. He oozes authority at the back, barking out orders and being a real team leader, something last season he wasn’t so much of. He has been ever present at the team’s heart, in a season where he has had to contend with alternating between Jonathan Woodgate, Matthew Upson and Robert Huth as partners in defence, and Asmir Begovic and Thomas Sorensen in goal.
He is far calmer on the ball then previously, is a massive threat from set-pieces and reads the game as good as any. His confidence has increased tenfold. Not a man who enjoys the public eye, he is rapidly proving me wrong as the right man to captain this side, another master stroke by Pulis, why do I ever doubt him sometimes?
The best thing about it is that it is unlikely he will leave in the summer. Shawcross is our captain, our leader and our hero and Stoke is in his heart. Forget Crouch for a second, England may have to start making room for Shawcross in their 2012 squad.