Stoke defend Shawcross

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STOKE, March 1 – Stoke City rushed to the defence of Ryan Shawcross, who got his first England squad call-up on Saturday just hours after snapping the right leg of Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey in a red-carded tackle.Centre-half Shawcross, 22, left the pitch in tears after the 66th-minute incident which saw Ramsay stretchered off in the Potters’ 3-1 home defeat to English Premier League title chasers Arsenal.

But mid-table Stoke insisted the challenge was not malicious and said it should not take away from a deserved place in England boss Fabio Capello’s squad for Wednesday’s friendly at Wembley against visitors Egypt.

"The timing of this has been most unfortunate, but it should not detract from the fact that Ryan has made remarkable progress and deserves his call-up," insisted Stoke boss Tony Pulis in a statement.

"While we are all deeply saddened at what has happened to Aaron, we believe that Ryan is worthy of this chance to represent his country and hopefully put himself in contention for a place in the England squad for the World Cup finals.

"It was an awkward challenge rather than a malicious one," the Potters boss insisted.

"It has been a difficult time for Ryan and he is still upset at the seriousness of the injury to Aaron, but it is important to remember what he has achieved over the past two years when he has emerged as one of the best young defenders in the country.

"I always felt that if he produced a consistent level of performances for us this season, as he has done, an opportunity would come along sooner rather than later.

"He is a smashing lad and an excellent professional who works extremely hard at improving his game, so I am confident he can make the step up."

Wales midfielder Ramsey, 19, underwent surgery after his right leg was broken in two places. He sustained fractures to the tibia and fibula and will certainly miss the rest of the season.

In a statement after the game at the Britannia Stadium, Shawcross said he was "deeply upset" and his thoughts were with the teenager.

He said there was no malice in the tackle and insisted he would "never go out to hurt a fellow professional".

Shawcross was the surprise name in Capello’s squad for the match intended as a tune-up for England’s World Cup finals group game with Egypt’s fellow north African side Algeria.

Former Manchester United trainee Shawcross is the first Stoke player to be named in an England squad since winger Mark Chamberlain appeared for his country in 1984.

Capello and assistant Franco Baldini delayed the announcement of their squad by 40 minutes to have a final discussion about Shawcross’ presence after hearing about the Ramsey incident.

But Shawcross’ clear regret over the incident convinced them to go ahead with their plan to pick him.

Shawcross has been a key figure in Stoke establishing themselves in the Premier League over the last two seasons and had never previously been sent off in his short career, which also included a loan spell at Belgian club Royal Antwerp during his time at United.

The defender partly owes his place to Rio Ferdinand’s back injury which forced the new England captain to miss Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Aston Villa in Sunday’s League Cup final.

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