Former Stoke City manager Lou Macari has his say about the club. In Part II of this week’s column he turns his attention to Ryan Shawcross as the captain hopes to return to first-team action…
Ryan Shawcross’s sprint times are eye-catching – but his overall appearance record is what really impresses me.
Hopefully Ryan will come back with no problems after a lay-off with injury issues. But although he’s been out of first team action since December, his overall record tells you what a good player he is.
He’s still only 32 but has a career record of 450 games, including a decade in the Premier League, and significantly he’s also been a key player while half a dozen managers were at the club.
Managers have put their faith in him, and rightly so, and Michael O’Neill has also said how pleased he is to have Ryan back.
As a big centre half we probably don’t think about him as a quick player but actually his sprint times put him up there with some of the quicker forwards around. Ryan was pretty modest about that, saying he might not turn as quickly and also that a good central defender shouldn’t have to sprint too often because you should be reading the game.
Decision making is a big part of being a top defender – those split second decisions about whether to go in for a tackle or stand off, or when to step up for offside. Good centre halves have got those assets.
The decision for the manager now is when to introduce Ryan back into the team for the first time since December. If he makes himself available then I have no doubt he will be generally fit because the medical team wouldn’t let him be considered otherwise.
But there’s the difference between playing in a first team game and training. Training won’t get you completely ready for that routine of a game – of twisting and turning, jumping under pressure, all the things that are natural for a centre half.
Fingers crossed for him. His manager will need to believe he can pick him knowing he is going to come through unscathed. If that’s the case then that will be a big boost for Stoke.