Nigel Johnson is now into his seventh different decade with BBC Radio Stoke and to mark the landmark we asked him to select his favourite Stoke City star from each of the previous six decades – today it’s the 2010s and there was, surely, only one choice…
I’d just had a new car and broke down at Strensham Services on the way to the game, so I went back with it on a low loader to Worcester for repairs, while my travelling colleagues jumped into another car.
I arrived 10 minutes into the game after my friend and media colleague Phil Lawton had stepped in to start the commentary off on BBC Radio Stoke.
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And, of course, Ryan scored the only goal of the game in what transpired to be the start of our promotion season – and no doubt Tony Pulis was happy to get one over on Cardiff.
Ryan played his part in Stoke’s promotion and in the club subsequently establishing itself in the Premier League.
Turning the clock forward, there was that challenge on Aaron Ramsey in a game against Arsenal in 2010.
The one thing you can say about Ryan is that he’s hard in the challenge, but fair, and certainly wouldn’t go out of his way to harm anybody.
After being sent off in tears, he later learned that evening of his first England call up.
He eventually made his England debut, but on the bench, and he came on whilst Zlatan Ibrahimovic was on fire in Sweden.
Ryan came on with around 15 minutes to play and at the time I felt this is going to be a baptism of fire, like throwing the Christians to the lions in the Coliseum.
Ibrahimovic was unplayable and Ryan suffered for that after being turned inside out and upside down along with everyone else.
At the time, I really questioned Roy Hodgson’s reasoning for bringing on a centre half so late in a game because it was grossly unfair and I would say that whether or not it was a Stoke player.
Some years later, Roy Hodgson was guest of honour at the annual Sir Stanley Matthews dinner and we all wished him well for the Euros that summer in 2016.
I found him to be a very nice, approachable and intelligent man and during a 40-minute interview that night I asked him about Ryan’s chances of another call up.
He said the door was not closed, but we all thought `it bloody well is!’
Ryan did win the Sir Stanley Matthews award for player-of-the-season and he kindly invited myself and Martin Spinks to his house to receive it.
That doesn’t always happen with players nowadays as they are very protective of their families and their family environments.
Had Ryan accepted an invitation to play for Wales, because he could have qualified for them too, his cabinet would have been full of international caps. No question.
But he wanted to play for England and I respect him for that because he followed his desire.
And that, in many ways, is a characteristic of Ryan’s because he is a very determined individual and that comes out in his football.
He has played more than 400 times for Stoke – more than anyone else in the Premier League – and when he first came to Stoke I found him to be quiet and unassuming.
When he was interviewed, he would generally answer with one word or, if we were lucky, one sentence because of a lack of confidence.
But now, the difference is considerable because his answers are forthright, well thought out and to the point.
There is no longer any fear of a microphone.
His partnership with Robert Huth at the heart of the Stoke defence was rock like and I think Ryan is a Potter through and through.
He’s totally loyal and gives everything for the cause.
It was an absolute tragedy at the start of this season when he broke his leg in the pre-season game against Leicester because his authority has been missed.
But, having had a few more niggles, it looks as though he’s ready to re-appear when football returns.
There is still mileage for Ryan to deliver and I’m sure supporters will be looking forward to seeing him back and firing on all cylinders for the club they love and the club he loves.”