Stoke City: Ryan can rise to the big occasion, says Whitehead
DEAN Whitehead says Ryan Shawcross shouldn't be overawed if he gets his chance at Wembley tomorrow.
The San Marino game looks to be Shawcross's best chance to win his first England cap because manager Roy Hodgson will be less inclined to experiment in next Tuesday's tough away game in Poland.
However, Whitehead says his club captain fully deserves to be in the squad for the back-to-back World Cup qualifiers, along with centre-halves Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Joleon Lescott.
Now he is hoping Shawcross is rewarded for his outstanding Stoke form with a first international cap.
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The Stoke players greeted the call-up, on Shawcross's birthday, by binding the defender's legs in tape and dumping him in the muddiest patch on the training ground.
However, Whitehead, pictured below, says the squad are thrilled for the 25-year-old skipper.
He said: "It's brilliant that Ryan is in the squad; it's long overdue. He's been getting a bit of stick, but he has been outstanding.
"He's joined England in good form and hopefully he will get a chance.
"You only have to watch him to see how good he is. He is a big lad who reads the game superbly. He can head the ball, he is strong at the back and he is quick.
"Surely he will have a chance now to stamp his authority on the squad and be in there regularly."
Whitehead says the Stoke skipper is occasionally the butt of his team-mates jokes, but they still have huge respect for him.
He said: "He gets a lot of stick from us and we force a lot of things on him. But he is an influence, he is growing into the role and he is going to get better and better.
"He leads us on the pitch and we sort him out off the pitch!"
Shawcross was superb in the goalless draw at Anfield on Sunday, but Whitehead rivalled him as man of the match with an all-action performance after coming on as a first-half substitute for Glenn Whelan.
Whelan's hamstring injury makes him a doubt for the Republic of Ireland's World Cup qualifier against Germany tomorrow and possibly for Stoke's game at Manchester United next Saturday.
However, Whitehead's performance at Anfield has presented a strong case for only his third Premier League start of the season.
He said: "It's not nice sitting on the sidelines but when you come on you have to make sure you are up to speed like everybody else and contribute what you can.
"I don't think Liverpool are quite the side they used to be, but Anfield is still a daunting place to play and I thought we did a great job."
Stoke rarely looked in trouble during the game as they continue to look a more solid side away from home than in previous years.
That was even obvious in their league defeat at leaders Chelsea last month when they matched the European champions before being sunk by Ashley Cole's 85th-minute winner.
Whitehead said: "We were saying before the Liverpool game that a couple of years ago we might have been going to Anfield not really expecting to get anything.
"But this year and maybe last year we were expecting to get results, so that is progression for us.
"Old Trafford will be something totally different again. But we are playing well and looking strong so there's no reason why we can't go and get something."