Sam Clucas hopes that Ryan Shawcross’ return from injury could be a turning point for Stoke City in their fight for Championship survival.
The 32-year-old has endured a hugely difficult year, missing nearly five months of football after breaking his fibula against Leicester City in pre-season.
But the experienced defender has recently made a long-awaited return to first-team action, making two appearances for the Potters over the festive period.
Shawcross’ return has clearly made a difference, with the 32-year-old helping the Potters pick up two home wins against Luton Town and Sheffield Wednesday.
Michael O’Neill’s side are still well and truly in the midst of a relegation dog-fight, though. The Potters sit just outside of the relegation zone only on goal difference, ahead of a trip to Fulham this afternoon.
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But speaking to the Stoke Sentinel, Shawcross’ teammate, Sam Clucas, hopes that the defender’s teammate proves to be a turning point for Stoke in their quest for survival.
He said: “This has got to (be the start of an upturn). We have a tough few games coming up, it’s a good time to get some momentum. Hopefully we can start climbing up the table soon.
“How big has Ryan’s absence been? Defensive leader, adds defensive stability, played in the Premier League and the Champ, he’s Mr Stoke… I can go on.
“All of those things apply. But it’s not just on the pitch, it’s off it too. He’s so experienced, he’s the leader, the main man. It’s the same around the training ground. It’s hard when you have been injured. I’ve been there. You’re not part of the squad. You’re not involved.
“It’s hard, frustrating for him watching in the stands. Maybe that’s what we have been missing. Put him in cotton wool ready for the rest of the season.”
Stoke scored two goals in stoppage-time to pull off an incredible turnaround against the Owls last time out, which propelled them out of the relegation zone in some style.
This afternoon, they face Fulham at Craven Cottage, before facing Huddersfield Town on New Year’s Day.
Shawcross is another experienced player who will be desperate to help Stoke climb up the table and well away from relegation.
He is a natural leader who lives and breathes Stoke, and his leadership has been so key for them in their last two home games.
He brings a calming influence to the backline, and he is a really good player to have in the dressing room. It’s those type of characters that will help Stoke escape the drop.