by Daisy Cutter
Wales have lacked a centre-back of genuine top class quality since Kevin Ratcliffe hung up his boots in the early nineties so the news this week that Chris Coleman was considering an approach for the English-born but Welsh-eligible Ryan Shawcross was approved of in Cutter Towers.
Though we’re hardly the Irish team under Jack Charlton selecting players because a grandparent once whistled It’s A Long Way To Tipperary whilst doing the washing up Wales have previously used Article 18 to its advantage on numerous occasions so the fact that the Stoke defender was born across the border in Chester is hardly an issue. Indeed in Shawcross’ case there are grounds to consider him Welsh in all but birth certificate due to him living all his life here and receiving his formal and football education here. Of much more relevance and importance is what he can offer the national team; a sometimes impregnable presence that has attracted the likes of Liverpool in recent times whilst being a pivotal figure in Pulis’ stout rearguard.
So when I heard that Coleman was planning to consult his young captain Aaron Ramsey to see if there were any lingering issues between the pair following the awful collision in early 2010 that left the Arsenal maestro with a double leg break I was personally delighted at the possibility of Shawcross representing Wales in the near future.
The legacy that Gary Speed bestowed upon his country is a youthful, adventurous side that plays the right way and has provided much cause for optimism. But for all the Cymru Barcelona passing and intelligent link-up play between Bale, Ramsey and Bellamy they still appear tremulously fragile at the back and qualification for any major tournament simply isn’t possible without the capacity to eke out several clean sheets. Shawcross could be a significant addition to help achieve that aim. He could be the rock on which the new-look Wales is founded.
But then I recalled that this wasn’t the first occasion that the 24 year old had been courted by the country that had given him everything but a maternity ward. He had previously turned us down by stating that he wished to concentrate on breaking into the England set-up first and to be fair to the player he nearly did so, winning a brace of Under 21 caps.
Here is where I have a problem with this week’s developments. Because I would rather have a player born and raised on the moon who had previously not even been aware of Wales’ existence but who jumped at the chance of playing for us than someone who has declined the offer to have the dragon on his shirt. Due to our subjugated history this is an intensely proud nation with people who – to my biased mind at least – are the best around. And coarsely put, we are no-one’s sloppy seconds.
Shawcross is by all accounts a cracking lad. He is still seen regularly supping in his local up the road from me and is very well regarded in our community for remaining down to earth and modest. A couple of years back a charity event I helped run approached him for a signed Stoke shirt and ball and he came through with typical helpfulness which was in stark contrast to another local hero. So this is by no means a slight on the person and I can almost guarantee that he meant no disrespect with his comments.
But the fact remains that should Coleman be successful in his wooing of a player Wales admittedly need and need badly there will always be a nagging feeling watching him that here is a player who regards us as a bridesmaid of his aspirations.
And is it just stubborn pride in me that would prefer we rather did without?