Could Stoke skipper Ryan Shawcross be about to play for the first time since December 29?
It appeared a long shot, but manager Michael O’Neill is talking up his chances after being asked about the veteran captain.
Shawcross has been sidelined all year – though he was an unused sub in the last game before lockdown – but his progress during lockdown has left him a genuine possibility to play at Reading tomorrow (3pm).
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“He is certainly a viable contender to start, yes,” O’Neill enthused.
“I think what we are seeing now is the best version of Ryan since I came to the club.
“Like any player who is a leader in the club, and club captain, he was always pushing to get back because of the situation the club was in, possibly to his own detriment at times to be honest.
“So, the break has certainly given him time to strengthen in areas where there was possibly weakness.
“His overall fitness levels – I think he is looking in fantastic shape. The fact he hasn’t played loads of games, I don’t think that is a huge factor.
“I think really the other players haven’t played for three months either. So, I think Ryan is very much at the forefront of my mind for the game on Saturday.”