Chin up Ryan, Wenger’s in the wrong here

I don’t know Ryan Shawcross from Adam. And, as a Port Vale fan, it’s fair to say I’m unlikely to have him around my house for dinner any time soon.
However, the Stoke defender has been in my thoughts since the moment he went in for a tackle against Arsenal starlet Aaron Ramsey and fate spat in his eye.
As we hacks sometimes say: “There’s only one story in town right now”.
The incident involving Shawcross and Ramsey on Saturday night is such a story and the human aspect of it transcends sport and reminds us all that, ultimately, football is just a game.
Ramsey’s injury was so bad that Sky initially refused to re-run the images. Not that we needed them. The faces of the Stoke and Arsenal players and coaching staff said it all.
Shawcross was obviously in a state of shock. He was distraught. Tears rolled down his face.
For several moments he looked like a frightened schoolboy – not knowing whether or not he should leave the pitch, as directed by the referee, or go to the assistance of the stricken Welsh international.
He was then inconsolable as he trooped off the field several minutes before the ambulance carrying Arsenal’s teenage prodigy sped away.
Just minutes after the game had finished, Gunners manager Arsène Wenger was ready for the TV cameras.
Never one to mince his words, he described Shawcross’s tackle as “horrendous” and called for the Stoke player to be banned for longer than the requisite three games his red card demands.
In the heat of the moment, and given previous awful injuries to two of his stars, some would argue the Frenchman should be forgiven for the hyperbole.
I have to disagree.
In many ways, Wenger’s ill-timed and over-the-top comments sum up much of what is wrong with our national game and its cult of personality.
Far too much credence is given to the opinions of the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Rafa Benitez and the theatrical Mr Wenger. All too often their comments are blown up out of all proportion by the media. So much so that they themselves become the story – irrespective of what transpires on the field.
Perhaps it would have been circumspect for Mr Wenger to have waited a wee while before condemning a young man who was clearly suffering enough.
The truth is, given a little time, even the most one-eyed of Arsenal fans would have to acknowledge that there was no harm intended by Ryan Shawcross’s tackle on Saturday night.
Clumsy? Yes. Ill-judged? Perhaps. Horrendous? No. Only the end result can be described as such.
In the cold light of day Mr Wenger should reflect on the fact that numerous pundits and experts have exonerated Stoke’s rising star of any malicious intent.
Indeed some photographs appear to show the Arsenal player’s own momentum and the positioning of his foot and leg contributed greatly to the sickening injury.
One former professional summed up the awful accident with the words: “there but for the grace of God go all of us”.
Hopefully such comments will help Ryan Shawcross come to terms with an awful incident early in what I hope will be a long and successful career.
On Saturday night his tremendous achievement in being called up to the England squad for this week’s friendly against Egypt was soured by the injury to Aaron Ramsey.
But I was heartened by the decision of England manager Fabio Capello to keep faith with the young defender.
It goes without saying that we all wish Aaron Ramsey a speedy recovery. That should, of course, be uppermost in our minds.
By the same token we should be supporting Ryan Shawcross as he deals with the understandable guilt over what happened and the brickbats being thrown by the likes of Mr Wenger.
Fortunately, football has a wonderful habit of redeeming its own.
I’m told by those who know him that Ryan Shawcross is a hard-working, committed and fair professional on the field and a lovely, reserved fella off it.
Thus I, for one, am sure the way he conducts himself in the years to come will ultimately demonstrate the calibre of the man.
Keep your chin up, Ryan.


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