WHILE any England supporter will have been naturally delighted to see the 2-0 win against Switzerland during the week, the occasion was marred for many of us by the fact that our skipper Ryan Shawcross was again omitted from the squad for the national team.
The situation is becoming something of a joke now and defies any genuine or logical explanation. It seems as though, as far as defenders go, his selection policy is ‘ABS’ (anyone but Shawcross). Calum Chambers is not even mentioned as being a contender for the England team after just 22 appearances for Southampton but he signs for Arsenal and, bang, he’s straight into the squad! Everton concede TEN goals in their opening three games of the season but, boom, three of their back four are called into Roy Hodgson’s squad! Seriously, what the hell is going on here? Is this some sort of joke?
In his seven years as a defender for Stoke City Ryan Shawcross has been a model of consistency, a rock upon which our promotion and Premier League stability has been built and an inspirational presence to those around him. He is a leader who leads from the front and by example. And the stats back up his efforts too. Last season he was right up there in terms of minutes played, tackles and headers won and blocks made. He may not always be the most graceful and elegant player on the field but he defends like a demon.
In the wake of our fantastic win at Manchester City, where Ryan again marshalled the defence brilliantly and helped to keep the deadly Sergio Aguero almost silent throughout the game, the question did start to get asked by many a national journalist as to why he is not even making an England squad that is hardly chock full of quality performers at the moment.
We have been wondering that ourselves for several seasons now and the only logical conclusions we can draw are that he plays for an unfashionable club like Stoke and that there is still some residual fall-out from the Aaron Ramsey incident. The ‘Stoke connection’ has been the curse of many a decent player (Jimmy Greenhoff being the most classic example) and it’s a fact that Roy Hodgson has not made even a single trip to the Britannia Stadium since becoming the England manager.
There is also the issue of his one England appearance in Sweden when he didn’t look too great against a blisteringly hot Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who managed to take England to the cleaners that night. The fact that our skipper only came on for the final 20 minutes and didn’t really do any worse than any other England player that night doesn’t seem to matter.
Neither does it seem to matter that plenty of other England players have looked shockingly bad in the repeated failures our national team has suffered in many recent major tournaments. Ryan can’t get a look in and they keep on getting picked, seemingly irrespective of how well they play.
The actual truth of the matter is that it does Stoke City a big favour that Ryan Shawcross keeps on getting overlooked for the England squad. It means that he doesn’t get dragged away to the far flung corners of the globe whenever there’s an international break and doesn’t run the risk of getting injured while playing for someone other than The Potters. We pay his wages and we’re the only ones tapping into the deep reservoir of talent and commitment he has to offer. It’s win-win for Stoke.
However, we all know that it’s about fair play and someone like Ryan Shawcross getting his fair reward from the game.
Each player has only one career in which to make their mark on the game and to write their names into the history books. Ryan Shawcross is one of the best centre-backs we’ve had in our entire history and has been an integral part of the success story we’ve enjoyed since he came to the club. He deserves to be rewarded and recognised for what he is – one of the best defenders in the country. It is a stain against the character of Roy Hodgson that he should so casually overlook a player like Ryan, while handing our caps like confetti to other players who seems to have done very little to earn them or players whose form doesn’t warrant their continued selection.
You can’t help but feel sorry for our skipper. He may be a very well paid footballer but he’s a human being with dreams and ambitions in life and he’s getting the short end of the stick here. There is also a very real truth here that cannot be escaped. If Ryan Shawcross was signed by one of the top seven clubs in the Premier League he would be named in the very next England squad to be announced. That’s a nailed-on, inescapable fact and every single person in football knows it!
This article first appeared in Issue 560 of The Oatcake