Commentary

Shawcross a brilliant signing ... says Inter Miami coach Neville

Well, whoop-dee-do and drinks all around! Inter Miami has announced the first signing of the brave new Philip Neville era.

And what a signing -- I mean, words cannot fully convey the impact of the arrival of Ryan Shawcross. That is, the words used by the club do not do him justice.

You remember him, of course? No? Then I must use the MLS, and the club’s, encomia. Here we have the praise being ladled out by the club’s sporting director, the excellent Chris Henderson: “Ryan fits the Inter Miami DNA because of his experience and his longevity at a club [he spent 14 years with Stoke City]. He's going to be able to come here and be a leader, not only on the field, but his leadership will be seen with the young players and players coming through. He's physically dominant, his feet are good, his range of passing is good and we think he's going to be a great addition to our backline.”

Coach Phil Neville went further and couldn’t resist using the word “brilliant”: 'He's a good leader on and off the field, he sets the example for others to follow in terms of his professionalism. He's someone that I think will be a brilliant asset to the club over the next couple of seasons.”

Even so, as I mentioned, these words do not capture the total Shawcross package. I must help out here. Shawcross is 33 years old. Something that got overlooked, possibly because it rekindles all those jibes about MLS being an “elephants’ graveyard.” Also missing from the official Shawcross buildup were the unfortunate tidings that he has been suffering lately from an assortment of injuries.

A broken fibula in 2019 needed surgery and sidelined him for four months. He returned to action in December of that year but lasted only 14 minutes after picking up a groin injury. He was out for two weeks but, after playing just two more games suffered another calf injury.

His next game didn’t come until June 2020 - he didn’t last the full game, and missed the rest of the season. His injury woes continued. In the current 2020–21 season he has made just two substitute appearances.

And it’s probably worth mentioning that Shawcross left English second-tier Stoke City on a free transfer, giving Inter Miami the coup of capturing this brilliant player without spending a penny.

Henderson mentioned that Shawcross is a “physically dominant” player -- which does need more words. Oh yes, Shawcross is physical all right. You bet. Back in 2010 Shawcross was big news in English soccer. Not, sadly, for any act of soccer brilliance. Evidently that “physical domination” element in his play had led him astray. His tackle broke the leg of Arsenal’s blossoming young star, the 19-year-old Aaron Ramsey. As is usual in these matters in England, Ramsey’s agony was soon forgotten, while sympathy was showered on Shawcross for this “unfortunate accident.”

Arsenal fans, and Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger felt differently. They were right. This was not an accident. It was nasty. And it turned out that this was not the first opponent sent to hospital by Shawcross.

I cannot imagine the Arsenal fans in Miami (I assume there is a coterie there) will assemble to cheer Shawcross on.

So this is the player whose “leadership will be seen with the young players and players coming through.” So says sporting director Henderson. I’ll confess to extreme suspicion when I find that word, leadership. It crops up far too often when a player is being lauded. A nice vague plaudit when other more tangible qualities -- high goal-scoring, multiple international appearances, top titles won -- are lacking.

It is noticeable that Inter Miami does not trumpet the fact that Shawcross also played for England. He did, when he was 24. He played for 16 minutes against Sweden, during which Zlatan Ibrahimovic got a hat trick. Shawcross never played for England again.

I have added some words to round out the official Miami Inter portrait of Ryan Shawcross. Points that Inter Miami, for obvious reasons, chose to omit.

He will be brilliant says coach Neville. Will he? He brings, says sporting director Henderson, good feet (gawd, I should hope so), and “his range of passing is good.” Well, there’s something. An English center back who can pass the ball. More than one Dutch defender has told me that their tactic, when they lose possession while playing against England, is to quickly pressure the England players -- except for the center backs. Trying to ensure that it is a center back who has to distribute the ball. The passing would then be so bad, that the Dutch would quickly regain possession.

Frankly, Shawcross does not impress me as the sort of player that either Inter Miami, or MLS needs. A standard English center back (they will mis-name him, of course, as a center half) at the end of a standard career. But there’s always the positive angle, that Inter Miami got him on a freebie.

King Lear tells us that: “Nothing will come of nothing.” But looking on the bright side, maybe Inter Miami can instill new life into that corny old soccer phrase about “creating something out of nothing.”

13 comments about "Shawcross a brilliant signing ... says Inter Miami coach Neville".
  1. Ben Myers, February 24, 2021 at 12:20 p.m.

    Shawcross is yet another reason why I am not looking forward to watching any MLS matches this year.  MLS started up off the rails and has stayed there, continually attracting aging marquee players (Chicharito, too!) while making meager investment in developing talent with first team play.  By contrast, many clubs in the top 4 or 5 European leagues introduce young players to the rigors of top level play.  Is it any wonder that so many young Americans are anxious to go to Europe and improve as players due to better coaching, better training methods, competition within the club, and match day competition.  So we have McKennie, Dest, Rayna, Pulisic, Adams, Robinson and others all seeing major minutes in first division European play, much better to watch than MLS. 

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, February 24, 2021 at 12:29 p.m.

    Calling Shawcross an "aging marquee" player flatters him.

  3. Grant Goodwin replied, February 25, 2021 at 1:46 p.m.

    Oh Ben...maybe your comments for MLS are true for some teams.  However, ATL UTD has disassociated from that kind of strategy.  5th in the world in attendance.  Selling two international players for more than they paid (Pity Martinez & Miguel Almiron) while setting an MLS selling fee in the process.  It is hard to argue your point about top Euro clubs and what they offer, but ATL UTD is right there with facilities of most teams in the world while other MLS teams are pretty close.  The MLS has more to offer than you might think.  More and South American young players are coming here on their way to Europe as it gets them a ton of attention and sometimes moeny. 

  4. Bob Ashpole, February 24, 2021 at 12:25 p.m.

    Good article. No doubt some fans of 2nd Tier English football may be excited, but the club should be focused on attracting local fans to its games in two months.

    Somebody at the club must have supported this hire, but the question is who? I am not assuming that it was Neville.

  5. John Soares, February 24, 2021 at 12:39 p.m.

    Paul writing comedy....
    Now there's a fun "new" twist.
    I like it :)

  6. R2 Dad, February 24, 2021 at 2:36 p.m.

    Now, now. We have to give Neville and Shawcross the benefit of the doubt. Both are allowed to make mistakes, though RS mistakes often involve the bottom of his boot against the lower extremities of his opponents. Who knows, maybe Neville employs overlapping centerbacks this season, they make the playoffs and RS is a big hit. It's unlikely, but everyone deserves a chance to live down to expectations.

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, February 25, 2021 at 1:38 a.m.

    I agree about Neville, but not Shawcross. A player has to actually play in order to make a mistake. Why has there been no talk about a physical before signing? Because they don't need a physical to know that the club is taking a huge gamble.

  8. Billy Logan, February 24, 2021 at 3:57 p.m.

    where is Dema Kovalenko is these days? - maybe he "got stuck in" in a tar pit, this FC Dallas/Burn fan wonders 

    neither am I forgiving Phil Neville for his attitude of "if your opponent fakes you out, injure that opponent"  whether in practice or match.  That's a foul odor around you, Phil; Ryan, that doesn't smell good. Miami FC - skills absent down there?

    Hopefully MLS will lead the world in red-carding for multiple crappy and yellow-card-level fouls against the same skillful opposing player.

  9. frank schoon, February 24, 2021 at 4:40 p.m.

    We can't seem toget rid of the English somehow. We were able to get rid of them a couple of hundred years ago but they quickly showed up again from day one in our soccer programs. They are like ticks, difficult to get rid of........

  10. Wooden Ships replied, February 25, 2021 at 11:05 a.m.

    Lol, Frank. And, so true. I think it's an accent thing. 

  11. George Vecsey, February 24, 2021 at 5:31 p.m.

    Paul, if you're going to cite Lear, I'm citing Julius Caesar.....or actually Mark Antony.
    You had me going for a minute that this bloke could a backbone of a team.
    (I didn't know him.)
    I was into the praise...and then you dropped the qualifiers.
    Well done.
    GV

  12. Ben Myers, February 25, 2021 at 12:42 p.m.

    Well, Shawcross made headlines a few times, but not in a good way.  But yes, marquee does portray him for far more than he seems to be.

  13. Kent James, February 28, 2021 at 11:14 p.m.

    Sometimes PG has to stretch things to keep up his reputation as a curmudgeon, but boy, unless there's a lot PG is leaving out, this story seems pretty bad....

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