Stoke City: Huth proves he's head and shoulders above the rest
YOU'D never have guessed from Robert Huth's goal that he was struggling to head the ball properly.
The German had to have 28 stitches over his left eye after a clash of heads in the home draw with Wigan on January 29.
He's played 90 minutes at Arsenal and at home to Reading since then, but admitted he has been wincing every time the ball struck the still-tender area where his head had opened up.
That made his 67th-minute opening goal on Saturday all the more remarkable as he rose at the back post to crash home an unstoppable header from Glenn Whelan's corner.
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Huth, who is sporting an impressive scar, said: "It's still sore and I didn't want to head the ball too much! But a week off now should do it good.
"I am all right, but every corner in the first half came from our right which I had to head with the left side of my head.
"The first corner from the left-hand side was easier for me to head and I scored. That felt a bit more comfortable because swinging my head to the left would have been a bit sore.
"I hadn't done any heading since the Arsenal game until the warm-up before this game. I caught one and thought, 'I hope I don't get too many on my head today'. But as it turned out we didn't have too many defensive headers to do and just one or two in the second half."
The extent of Huth's injury makes it all the more remarkable that he managed to complete the 90 minutes against Wigan after the wound opened up in a first-half clash with Franco Di Santo. Huth played on with a bandage before the club doctor spent an hour after the game stitching up the damage.
The defender added: "I didn't think it was that bad at the time. I had one before and I felt a little bit concussed, but this time I thought, 'oh, it's just bleeding'. But when I took the bandage off, I could see it was a bit deeper than the other one. I'm not saying I'm a real man or anything. It affects some people, but I was okay with it."
Huth didn't look affected as he produced a commanding performance against the Royals. He says he was determined not to let the tender spot affect his performance.
He added: "It is in the back of your mind, but when a ball comes in there are 20 different ways to head the ball, even if it hits the top of your head. I'm glad we got through today, the three points is massive. "
Besides, Huth says manager Tony Pulis was always going to ask him to play. "Oh yes. It was never in doubt," he added.
Huth's fitness has become ever more important to Stoke after Matthew Upson left on loan on deadline day without a replacement being brought in.
But the German hasn't simply been a huge asset to City because of his defensive prowess since his £6m move from Middlesbrough in August 2009.
Since he joined Stoke, his 13 league goals have only been bettered by one top-flight defender, Leighton Baines, who has netted 15 for Everton in the same period.
However, Saturday's goal was Huth's first of the season, which is one explanation for Stoke's shortage of goals.
He said: "Defenders scoring is a big thing for the team. For some reason it hasn't hit off for us this season.
"Me and Ryan Shawcross have only got one each so it's not good enough. Usually we have three, four and five so hopefully we can chip in with a few more.
"I have always scored one or two, but since I came here I have really kicked on. Hopefully I can start scoring a few more."
Huth doesn't mind being behind Everton's free-kick specialist Baines in the goals tally. He said: "He scores a few more spectacular ones than I do so he deserves to be up there."