Michael O’Neill has his say on picking next Stoke City captain


Stoke City will wait until the summer before appointing a permanent successor as captain to Ryan Shawcross.

The armband has been shared in Shawcross’s absence this season, mostly between James Chester and John Obi Mikel before Joe Allen took it for the last two games, and O’Neill is happy with the leadership in the changing room.

That means he is in no rush to fill the big Shawcross vacancy off the pitch as well as on it.

“It’s not something that I think has an urgency about it,” said O’Neill.

“When I look at our group, we have a number of players who are very experienced at the right time of their career who are capable of being captain.

“It’s been shared around; John Obi has had it, last season Sam Clucas, James Chester, Danny Batth and Joe Allen. I don’t think it’s something that’s going to affect us between now and the end of the season. We have a really good group of senior players who can manage the situation and adapt to the loss of Ryan

“Moving forward, we will probably look before the start of next season about the hierarchy within that situation.

“I do think at times that in English football we put a lot more emphasis on it than in European football, for example, but it is something which is important.”

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Shawcross had been Stoke club skipper since 2010 and the role has grown under his watch as he embraced responsibilities as ambassador and in the community as much as in the squad.

He had inherited it from Abdoulaye Faye but the captaincy had been pretty fluid over the previous decade, as it has been on the pitch in the near-two years since Shawcross’s game time was limited by injury.

O’Neill said: “You hope that the captaincy uplifts any player – and spreading it out maybe should spread the aura among the group.

“We will get to that point when we have to appoint a captain but we don’t have to rush into that situation. There’s a lot of football to be played and the most important thing is that we have enough leaders within the group.

“John Obi is a good example of that. He hasn’t started the last two games but he is still very positive around the group and changing room, as Ryan was. Ryan was very positive and very visible in the dressing room on match day even when he was injured and wasn’t playing.

“It’s important that a captain, even when he isn’t playing, recognises what his presence is at that point in time. I’ve seen that in a lot of the senior players, like Joe when he was injured. He was in the changing room, recognised the situation the club was in and wanted to help. James Chester the same.

“It’s about the quality of individuals as much as the piece of cloth around your arm.”

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Shawcross will be a miss for the manager as well as the club and his teammates as he heads off for a new chapter at Inter Miami.

O’Neill said: “I remember I came to Wychwood Park on the Thursday night (I was appointed) and met with the existing staff, myself and Andy Cousins, and asked Rory (Delap) to have Ryan and Joe Allen to come and meet me in my office first thing on Friday morning.

“The purpose of that was to introduce myself. Ryan was injured at the time, he couldn’t play, and Joe was acting captain. He had the armband at the time.

“I knew how significant Ryan was at the club so it was very important to meet them.

“Despite the fact that Ryan’s playing time has been limited – and the majority of that was due to a run of injuries he got into – he has been an enormous source of support at times.

“He’s been a good source of advice too because he knows the club a lot better than I do. He’s spent his career here and I could ask for any more than what he’s given me off the pitch.”





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