Robbie Earle: Shawcross call gives us chance to focus on brighter side of game
IT'S not often I look forward to the international break nowadays, but this time I can't help feeling we all need a rest from the Premier League.
What with the John Terry saga and Ashley Cole tweets, followed by a weekend full of accusations about elbowing, diving and stamping, this two-week Premier League sabbatical will hopefully allow us to all return to a more peaceful landscape.
England's World Cup qualifying matches, against San Marino at Wembley tomorrow, and then the more difficult task of Poland away next Tuesday, take centre stage and will be a test of concentration as well as class.
It was pleasing to see Roy Hodgson eventually found room to accommodate Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross in his squad and I'd like to think it wasn't just because the new England facility is down the road in Burton!
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There is no doubt the young Stoke captain has been performing well, even drawing praise from his former nemesis, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
To be recognised as the leader of such established players as Peter Crouch and Michael Owen will not have done his chances of selection any harm either.
Having been in a couple of England squads myself, many years ago, I can tell you there is a real buzz just training with the best players in the country.
Shawcross will be as pumped up for each training session as he would be on a normal match day.
It is a great chance for him to make a favourable impression, not only on the coaching staff, but also importantly to win the respect of the rest of the players, many of whom are permanent fixtures in England squads.
I suspect Shawcross may not make the starting line-up against San Marino, but there must be a chance he could get some game time if things are going well.
It would appear foolish to include him in the squad and not take the opportunity to see him in the international environment.
If he does manage to get on the pitch at any stage (of either match) it would represent a massive step forward for the player and his club.
You have to go way back to Mark Chamberlain in 1984 to name the last Stoke player to win a full cap. A full three years before Ryan Shawcross was even born.
The two players bring very different qualities to a team.
While Shawcross is a ball-playing and physical type of centre-half, Chamberlain was much more reserved and refined, almost 'gazelle like' with his movement on either flank.
I had one season at Port Vale with Mark in the early 1980s and was astonished at the all-round quality he possessed. I recall one specific incident when we were having a training game where 'Chambo' was designated to take the corners.
Nothing strange there. But to perfectly swing the ball into the box from either corner, using either foot, showed me he was a special talent.
It was only a matter of months later that Chamberlain made the move from the Vale to Stoke and his career took off almost instantly.
Shawcross has not quite had the fanfare that accompanied Chamberlain back then.
However, I was encouraged to hear the impressive Gary Neville talk about Ryan as a great example of a player who has developed his game and made the most of his talents.
Neville recalled how he had played in a Manchester United reserve team with Shawcross some years ago and how he saw the player's raw potential.
He also described how the Stoke skipper had shown the desire and resolve to move on from Old Trafford to kick-start his career.
The England call-up should be recognised as a reward for the years of perseverance and be an example for many other youngsters.