Danny Higginbotham: Jon Walters is worth his weight in gold to Stoke City
I HAVE to take issue with any Stoke fan questioning why Jon Walters is always in the team.
I'm told tomorrow's game against West Ham will be his 79th consecutive start in the Premier League.
That's an amazing feat – and one I can fully understand.
I can only speak from the perspective of a fellow player and colleague; one who really appreciates what he brings to the team.
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I've played with many players in my career who can only be appreciated when you have played alongside them because that's when you see what they bring to the team on a weekly basis.
Jon Walters is one of these players. It's safe to say he is one of the fittest lads I have ever played alongside, and one of the most selfless as well.
Every week, without fail, he runs himself into the ground for the team and at times his selflessness stops him getting the plaudits he deserves. A lot of his work allows other team-mates to get the glory.
Jon doesn't give any opponent a second's peace. He's one you want on your side whenever you're going into battle.
Ok, he missed a penalty at Fulham last Saturday, but believe you me, his qualities makes him one of the first names on the team sheet... and rightly so.
It was no surprise a lot of supporters were still chanting his name after two own goals and a missed spot kick against Chelsea not that long ago.
In my opinion, Jon Walters epitomises everything good about Stoke and it was a pleasure to have played in the same team as him over the years.
Talking about having men on your side ready to battle, take a bow Robert Huth.
He has just picked up a three-match ban for an offence which the second he committed, I'm sure he wondered what the hell was I thinking.
People have rushes of blood and Huthy has done this on a couple of occasions now.
His absence will break up what is, in my opinion, the most consistent centre-back pairing in the country with him and Ryan Shawcross. I look at a player like Huthy and if you try and take away that physical element of his game, then I think you are taking away some of the player.
He is an all-guns-blazing lad who never gives anything less than 100 per cent and sometimes it can be a bit too much, as Saturday showed, but there aren't many better centre-backs in the Premier League that I can name.
The thing with him is he will tackle hard, but the reason he is so respected is that he can take a tackle and he will never moan, he just gets up and gets on with it.
I remember in one training session I got caught in a sandwich between him and Ryan when Huthy ended up smashing right into me and just started laughing.
And you can guarantee that even if it had been the other way round and he'd got smashed, he would still have been laughing.
He's a great lad, he really is, and yes he has to take his punishment and that will hurt the team.
But that's Huthy. Take that out of him and you lose some of his quality – and no-one at Stoke wants that.
Now for the problem of replacing him at centre-half against West Ham tomorrow.
I think it's safe to say that whoever does will be in for a fairly bruising encounter against Andy Carroll. There are a few options with Marc Wilson, Geoff Cameron and Ryan Shotton being mentioned.
Marc Wilson looks like the obvious choice. He's played a lot of games there before and I think his strength will be very important tomorrow.
He never gets fazed about any position he is asked to play in and I'm sure this would be no exception.
That would leave the left-back spot free and your guess is as good as mine as to who will play there.
But it won't be me any more. I'm involved at the top end of League One with Sheffield United nowadays and we've got another tough one tomorrow at FA Cup heroes Oldham.
I just hope we fare better than either Liverpool and Everton have done at Boundary Park just recently.