‘Off the scale’ – Michael O’Neill issues brilliant update on James McClean and Ryan Shawcross



James McClean and Ryan Shawcross have returned to Stoke City in prime condition – let alone just fit again.

McClean had been sidelined for a month with a knee ligament problem when play stopped in mid-March while Shawcross, who broke a fibula in pre-season, had since been derailed by groin and calf problems and only made three appearances all term.

But they have worked hard during the break and Michael O’Neill has been amazed by the physical statistics they have been posting ahead of the Championship resumption.

“They’re in excellent condition,” said the manager, who welcomed players back in small group training last Monday, in an interview for the club website.

“James, we know, does a lot of fitness work. He’s very focused on that. He’s come back in fantastic shape, as he always is.

“I’ve not seen too many footballers with the running capacity of James during my time in the game.

“Some of the running he’s done, some of the times he’s doing, are off the scale to be honest.

“Ryan looks great. For me it’s the best I’ve seen him during my time at the club. It’s a huge boost both in terms of physically how he looks with his body and obviously how he’s looking and moving.

“It’s been a tough week and maybe the toughest week he’s had a while really because he’s not got back really. In the four months I’d had in charge he’d only been fit for two or three games, which is frustrating for him.

“I think the break has helped him, definitely. He seems a lot more free in how he’s running. He’s got more confidence, probably, in his body.

“We still have to manage him carefully, as we do all the players at different stages of their careers. But he looks fantastic at the minute.”

The Championship could start again on June 20, with nine games for Stoke to cement their place in the division. All dates for how training can progress from players being 2m apart to almost back to normal, as well as friendlies and fixtures, remain up for discussion.

O’Neill, however, knows he will have to manage without key man Joe Allen and winger Thibaud Verlinden, who are recovering from long-term injuries.





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