Rory Delap says there is no question that Ryan Shawcross – despite all the injury heartache this season – remains as desperate as ever to re-claim his place on a regular basis.
Shawcross has been forced to abort two comebacks after a long spell out with a broken leg and was edging closer to a first-team return when the season went into cold storage last month.
Now Stoke City first-team coach and former team-mate Delap insists Shawcross is still hungry for more – and was proving it every day in training.
“His injury last pre-season hurt me, too, professionally and personally,” Delap recalls.
“He’d looked as good that summer as I’d seen him for a long time, back to his best. Then he got that freak injury which was awful for him.
“But once you knew he’d come through the operation ok, there was never any doubt he would come back again because of his character and thankfully he did.
“No-one sets a better example with the way he trains every day, whether it’s in the gym or out on the training ground.
“He’s still desperate to play to a high level and he’s got the character, tenacity and ability to do that.
“Playing at centre back is a help to Ryan because you can go on for so much longer in that position.
“That said, he’s as fit as any of the lads and usually at the front of the runs.”
Delap, who enjoyed some of Stoke’s best times in the Premier League alongside Shawcross, continued: “It comes down to how much he wants it and seeing him in training every day… he wants it.
“He’s a pain in the a*** to referee because he contests every decision and wants to win every game, whether it’s 11-v-11 or five-a-side.
“Playing for the under-23s against Manchester United a few weeks ago, the voice you could really hear was his and it was good for the youngsters around him to see and hear those kind of communication levels.
“And he’s not just an example on the pitch, but a great example off it, too, with the way he conducts himself.
“Make no mistake about it, he’s still desperate to be in that starting 11.”