Stoke City captain Ryan Shawcross says he’s faced tougher battles in the second-tier than those against Chelsea striker Diego Costa.
The Potters’ skipper marked the Spain international out of the game as the Britannia outfit defeated strugglers Chelsea for the second time in a fortnight on Saturday.
And although Stoke’s skipper acknowledges Costa’s quality, he said that the former Atletico Madrid star got too wrapped up in their duel.
“As soon as Diego was focusing on me and not the game I knew I had won the battle,” said Shawcross at a fans forum on Wednesday evening in aid of Children In Need.
“I’m glad I managed to keep him quiet because he is a fantastic player, but I have faced much tougher strikers in the Championship.”
Costa had accused Shawcross of smelling during the encounter, and following a tweet from his wife Kath showing him using Dove spray, he was last night presented with a year’s free supply of smellies from the company.
However, the Manchester United youngster is more focussed on leading his team to victories again after recently returning to the side following back surgery.
“It’s difficult when you’re injured. it’s a case of trying to focus on the rehab and trying to get fit,” said the 28-year-old.
“We planned reserve games and it gave me the sharpness when I came back, and I was ready to play first-team football.”
Since promotion back in 2008, there’s been a big improvement of quality throughout the squad.
And as the only surviving member of that promotion winning side, Shawcross is relishing Stoke’s current crop.
“We’re leaving internationals out of the squad and that shows how strong the squad is,” he said.
“The signing of Shaqiri shows how far the squad have come.
“In Shaqiri, Arnie (Marko Arnautovic) and Bojan we have some quality players and when Shaqiri has that confidence he’ll be a great player.”
Although he has encountered months of frustration having to watch games from elsewhere, the skipper says it has allowed him to realise just how much talent the squad has.
He added: “We work a lot on tactics and style of play in meetings, but seeing it from the stands proves we have talented players.
“The performances weren’t matching the points tally at the start of the season.”
A big part in the Stoke revolution was the appointment of Mark Hughes as boss in 2013.
And casting his mind back to the Welshman’s appointment, Shawcross said it was an uncertain time for him.
“Mark was my first experience of a new manager,” he said.
“I didn’t know whether he wanted a new captain or not, and you always wonder when a new manager comes in what training is going to be like, but he came up to me straight away and said ‘hello skipper’ then we got on with training.”
Although a stalwart for his club in the Premier League, the Chester-born defender has not been given a real opportunity on the international scene, making just one substitute appearance for the senior side against Sweden in 2012.
But instead of opting to play for Wales, where he was raised and educated, he still holds out hope of representing the Three Lions on a regular basis.
“I was born in England and this is still the country I want to play for,” he stressed.
“If I don’t play for them again though, then so be it.”
Turning his attention back to club-level, City’s skipper says the aim is to qualify for Europe again, something they did in 2011.
“I loved playing in Europe, the travelling and different cultures, and that has to be the target again.”
As for his Stoke highlight…..
“The 5-0 win over Bolton [FA Cup semi-final 2011]. The atmosphere was fantastic and I haven’t had a feeling like that in a dressing room for a while.”