A Stoke fan’s view of Ryan Shotton

Ryan Shotton

Ryan Shotton has made a promising start to his career at Wigan Athletic. The big 24 year old defender arrived at Wigan only three weeks ago, on loan from Stoke City until January.

We reached out to a father and son team who are lifelong Stoke City fanatics for their views on the player. Our thanks go to Will Condliffe, and his dad Paul Condliffe, for this interesting article.

Local lad Ryan Shotton came through the ranks at Stoke City and was the first youngster to progress through the club’s new academy set-up

He signed professional terms in 2007 and went out on loan to Altrincham, Tranmere Rovers and Barnsley to gain first team experience before breaking into the Stoke squad towards the end of the 2010-11.

Under the leadership of then manager Tony Pulis, Stoke fans thought that another ‘Stokie’ would at long-last follow in the footsteps of the likes of Stanley Matthews, Gordon Banks, Denis Smith and Jimmy Greenhoff and go on to regularly wear the red and white stripes in the top flight of English football. Indeed he went on to make 50 appearances for The Potters, scoring in the UEFA League in 2011-12 against Hajduk Split and Maccabi Tel Aviv. .

However, although Shotton was developed through the youth set-up as a centre-back he was used by Pulis as a full-back, a wide midfielder and even as a stand-in forward on several occasions. Unable to break the partnership of the impressive Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross, Shotton never had an opportunity in his most natural position and perhaps this is where the route of his problems, and his demise, lie.

Towards the end of last season, as the Potters’ form slumped and the club was dragged into a relegation battle, many his own fans turned on him – jeering his name when the starting line-up was announced and cheering as his number went up on the substitute’s board. This was cruel and harsh and certainly impacted on his confidence, if not his enthusiasm. He certainly wasn’t the only player under-performing at the time. That said, he did look like a fish out of water, or perhaps more aptly, a centre-back out of position. He doesn’t quite posses the pace, skill and guile to be a ‘modern’ overlapping full-back (let alone a right midfielder) and all too often gets caught out defensively there too.

It can’t be denied that Ryan gives his all but sadly he lacks that special something that makes a top classplayer. Possessing a long throw not exactly as bullet-like as Rory Delap’s but effective nonetheless, Shotton is a worker and will give 100% to the cause and maybe in the Championship will find his level.

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McCarthy out, Powell and Shotton in

It seemed inevitable that James McCarthy would leave Wigan Athletic and Everton were always going to be the clear favourites to secure his services. Once Everton could confirm the sale of Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United they were going to have the funds to pay Latics the kind of asking price that Dave Whelan demanded. Although not at his best this season, McCarthy will be sorely missed by Latics.

For some time we have been waiting for Owen Coyle to sign another experienced defender and a forward capable of scoring goals. Coyle left it late, but managed to go some way towards providing what was needed through loan signings.

Latics’ interest in 19 year old Manchester United youngster, Nick Powell, had been broadcast in the media for some weeks. It was therefore no surprise when the loan deal was completed on the last day of the transfer window. However, the name of Liverpool’s Andre Wisdom had also been banded about the media, but a deal did not materialize. Wisdom would have fitted the defensive bill through his ability to play at full back or in the centre of defence.

Unable or unwilling to sign Wisdom, Coyle made an eleventh hour move to sign Ryan Shotton from Stoke on a one year loan deal. Shotton is a more experienced player than Wisdom and can also play in any slot in the back four.

Many Latics fans had questioned the need for the signing of an attacking midfield player like Powell, given the presence of playmakers Shaun Maloney and Jordi Gomez in the squad. Even with the departure of McCarthy, Coyle was still going to have a wealth of quality midfield players at his beckoning.

There is no doubt that Powell can score goals, including spectacular ones. At Crewe he had played in a more forward role, scoring 16 goals. On Powell’s  arrival last summer Sir Alex Ferguson stated that  “We see him as a central midfield player. Crewe played him as a forward in behind the striker, but I asked a question of [Alex director of football] Dario Gradi as to whether he thought central midfield was his position. That’s what he thinks, and Nick thinks that’s his position too, so we’re all in accord on that.”

Grant Holt’s injury leaves Latics stretched, with only Marc-Antoine Fortune available to fill the central striker role. It could be that Powell will be asked to step into that position sooner rather than later. Powell is clearly a fine young player and could make a major impact on Latics season, providing he can avoid the injury problems he had at Manchester last season.

The signing of the 24 year old Shotton is going to give Wigan much more defensive cover. The 6’3” Shotton has been used as a full back or midfield player by Stoke, although his natural position is in the centre of defence. He provides cover for Emmerson Boyce at right back. Although the captain remains a fine player he is now 33 and is going to find it difficult to get through a long season without some breaks. Shotton is not a cultured attacking full back like Boyce, but he will add defensive solidity. Shotton took over the long throw-in role from Rory Delap at Stoke and it might well be a ploy that Coyle will favour.

Coyle has now recruited 12 new players since his arrival in July. Both Powell and Shotton on one year loan deals are good signings with the view of getting Latics back to the Premier League.

It is the lack of a third specialist central striker that is the concern, but that might happen when the transfer window reopens in January. Given the audacious attempt to lure Jordan Rhodes from Blackburn it appears that Whelan is willing to pay what is needed to get another top class striker.

Coyle has once again done a good job in the transfer market.

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Think of Stoke City and what comes to mind? The pulsating final game of last season when Hugo Rodallega’s goal sent us into raptures – safety assured? Let’s go further back in time. Historians might point out that Stoke City are the second oldest professional football club in the world, founded in 1863, after Notts County who started a year earlier. Stanley Matthews – one of the greatest English players of all time – played 259 times for Stoke City, being 49 years old in his last season. The most fantastically skilful winger you could see in an era when full backs could play with ultimate thuggery and get away with it most of the time. He played 54 games for England, despite World War II taking away his “peak” years between 24 and 30 years of age. The superb goalkeepers – Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton – also played for Stoke for long periods. I warmly recall the era of Tony Waddington, a manager who believed in entertainment and the sheer artistry and elegance of Alan Hudson in his mid 1970s Stoke team, that made them a joy to watch.

Stoke City has a history of high quality football. They dwarf Wigan Athletic in their longevity, although their only notable success in all those years was in winning the League Cup in 1972. As befitting a club with such a long history they have a loyal and passionate support and stats tell us that the noise level of the crowd in their stadium is second to none in the Premier League.

So what do Wigan Athletic face at Stoke tomorrow? Sadly the days of good football at Stoke are no longer with us. They play a kind of football that would not be tolerated in other parts of the world. They are a blight upon the landscape of the Premier League. The pragmatist will say that Stoke are playing to their strengths – this is a valid argument – but is it unlikely that they could get away with it in other European countries. Frankly speaking, their football is ugly – they resemble the hideous Bolton teams under Sam Allardyce or even the “Crazy Gang” Wimbledon team of the 1980s.

Stoke are a big team, in the true sense of the word. So many of their players are physically large, and they can be very ruthless in their tacking. They get most of their goals from centres or set-pieces. So far this season 61% of their goals have come from the latter. Their pitch measures 100 meters by 64 meters, the lowest permissible by UEFA. There is certainly going to be a contrast in footballing styles between the teams. So far this season Stoke have played 721 long balls – the highest in the division – and Latics only 244, the lowest.

So Latics will be facing a truly physical team tomorrow at Britannia Stadium. Rory Delap has been out injured over recent weeks, but even if he does not make it they have Ryan Shotton available for their long throw-ins. Let’s not forget the skill they have on the wings with players like Mathew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant who can put dangerous centres across for strikers of the quality of Peter Crouch, Kenwynne Jones, Jonathan Walters and Cameron Jerome. However, Latics have shown that they can match Stoke physically in the past. In the six matches they have played together in the Premier League, four have ended up in draws, with one win for each side.

For once the Premier League hierarchy have given Latics a favourable decision in rescinding Conor Sammon’s ridiculous red card at Old Trafford. Although Sammon is available he may not start, facing competition from Franco Di Santo and a Hugo Rodallega eager to end his goalscoring drought. The remainder of the team is likely to remain unchanged, although Martinez might be tempted to shore up his defence by playing Patrick Van Aanholt at left wing back. My hope is that good football can triumph over route one. Wigan Athletic can bear up to the physical pressures and head tennis that Stoke may throw at them and come back with a good result.