Shawcross just a victim as well

Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross, like Aaron Ramsey, is just a victim.

Shawcross’s challenge on the Arsenal midfielder was not a malicious one, despite the damage done to the Arsenal youngster. The 19-year-old Wales ace was taken to hospital with a badly broken leg after a red-carded tackle from new England squad member Shawcross.

But I’m sure Shawcross didn’t intend to seriously injury Ramsey when he made the tackle – he was just late in making the challenge and most probably under instructions from his boss.

Potters chief Tony Pulis puts a great deal of importance on his team’s combative edge and Shawcross and the rest of the Stoke squad were probably just following a game plan.

Pulis certainly wouldn’t have instructed his players to intentionally injure their opponents, but there’s no doubt in my mind he made it clear to his men that they were to impose their physical presence on Arsenal and tackle hard.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger’s criticism of teams like Stoke who are seen to be over aggressive in their approach has been well documented. It’s certainly a fine line and, according to Wenger, Shawcross stepped over the line on Saturday.

Wenger said: “All the questions I get in press conferences about how we don’t fancy the physical side of it, that’s the result.

“I’m not very happy with the tackle. We know what we are expecting, a battle everywhere, but we have now lost three players to horrendous tackles and I refuse to believe it’s always coincidence.

“I don’t believe it when you are hit as many times as we are. I just believe in what I see and when you see a player getting injured like that, it’s not acceptable.”

Although Wenger described the tackle as “horrendous”, I’m convinced Shawcross did not mean to hurt his opponent when he made his lunge and although he might not show the physical scars like Ramsey, mentally he will have been unhinged by the whole episode.

However, Shawcross will have to put the incident behind him if he wants to play his way into contention for this year’s World Cup.

The World Cup 2010 betting makes the side third favourites to win the competition and all members of the squad will need to be mentally prepared if they are to live up to expectations.

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Meanwhile, in horse racing news, Denman and Kauto star continue to dominate the build up to this year’s Gold Cup, an event which could be the greatest Cheltenham race of all time.