Many Stoke City fans hail him as one of the greatest defenders to grace their club in modern times, but the rest of the football world struggles to think of Ryan Shawcross without some of the horrors of his game springing to the forefront of their minds.
Down the years, Shawcross has pulled some shocking tackles out of his back pocket that have piled momentum onto his ‘bad-boy’ image. As Stoke City captain for six years, the defender has made his mark on football for some undesirable reasons, but has he learnt to curb his negative aggression and turn that into quite a powerful on-field leadership?
What’s more, is this type of leadership something that clubs, such as West Ham for example, should look for in players to instill passion and positive aggression into their teams, week-onweek? Perhaps if a player can show the right amount of hostility towards opposition, intimidation is a valid tactic. Aft er all, you don’t cement the captain’s armband to your sleeve for as long as Shawcross has without some positive justifi – cation.
It’s not possible to look over the likes of Shawcross’ career without it being marred by leg breaks and red cards, but once he takes that out of his game, he leaves an impression on Stoke City so big, that it would be hard to see the club without him.
It has to be said any bad words to be spoken about the 29-year-old remain on the field. It’s rarely suggested that Ryan Shawcross isn’t a nice guy off-duty, so this is in no way a slur of his personality. It’s a genuine attempt to illustrate that a team like West Ham needs someone with his forceful attributes but without taking it too far.
He has tallied up over 300 league starts for Stoke now, something that in this day and age is all too rare. His loyalty to the club and in turn their devotion to him through bad times speaks volumes for his importance. Which players at West Ham mirror Shawcross’ strong qualities? Do opposition players have the same fear of Mark Noble as they do of the Stoke defender? Probably not. Although, that’s for the right reasons. We can’t talk about his career without pulling his controversies out of the bag.
The former Man United man has the potential to do serious damage to a player and that’s not something we want to see from any professional in the Premier League. Francis Jeffers and Aaron Ramsay have been the most notable recipients of broken limbs from reckless tackles, with Emmanuel Adebayor also having a spell on the sidelines thanks to a bad challenge outside of the pitch boundaries.
While his teammates would emphasise that ‘he isn’t that kind of guy’, there has to be serious cloud cast over a player who can even go in for a tackle with the potential to be a career-changer. Arsene Wenger found it hard to forgive the Stoke man for the horrors that he bestowed on his players, particularly Ramsay.
On a personal level, Shawcross was clearly in a state of shock following the infamous tackle and attempted to apologise more than once. It led to his first sending off of his career. Throughout his Premier League years at Stoke City (he’s into his ninth top-flight season now), he’s clocked up five red cards and 56 yellows. For those of you who like goal stats, that works out at around four and a half yellow cards per Premier League goal for Shawcross – not bad for a solid defender.
There’s certainly a case to state that as the Englishman ages, his head is leveling. Last season saw him with only three yellow cards, but that could be down to his absence through injury. Perhaps that’s the key though, to have a player who’s not fresh from the academy and too eager to make a name for himself by throwing himself around and being reckless.
Is it about time the footballing world gave Ryan Shawcross credit as the tough but intelligent defender that he is? He’s openly admitted that he doesn’t want this negative image to follow him, but it clearly hasn’t had an impact on his ability to get his head down a do a job for Stoke City. Do West Ham want someone whose career could be marred by negatives? Not particularly, no. But would we consider taking someone who’s going to put some fear into opposition – I don’t see why not.