I committed a mortal sin during the Footy Show’s annual fantasy draft this year. In need of a central defender, I selected Stoke City’s rising star Ryan Shawcross. It was a smart pick in a league that values clean sheets for defenders, but alas, my fellow participants were surprised I took the man that nearly ended Aaron Ramsey’s career.
Much of the venom spewed towards Shawcross in the aftermath of the challenge was justified. Arsenal supporters remembered what happened to Eduardo two years earlier – a player who was never the same for the Gunners after that Martin Tyler challenge in Birmingham. The injury ended a promising season for the then 19-year old, who came to Arsenal as a highly-rated 17-year-old from Cardiff City for £5m. Here’s video of the incident – I’m not kidding when I say please do not watch if you are at all squeamish:
An aside: the music selection for the clip was clumsily chosen at best, not good at all. What many might not remember Shawcross’ reaction to the tackle. The defender left the pitch in tears, consoled by his teammates to no effect. After the game Shawcross left the grounds with his mom, according to manager Tony Pulis. In a prepared statement he reiterated he never intended to cause Ramsey harm:
But Shawcross later expressed his sympathy for Ramsey and said in a statement: “There was absolutely no malice in the challenge.” He added: “I would never go out to hurt a fellow professional. I am deeply upset that Aaron has suffered such a bad injury and my thoughts are with him.
Ramsey returned to Arsenal’s starting lineup on March 19th, 2011. He went on to make his first Champions league appearance in August of that year. Two months later he assisted on a Gervinho goal that helped Arsenal overcome Shawcross and Stoke at the Emirates. Yes it was a terrible challenge, but he was back, and exacting the only form of revenge possible, save from a deliberate attack on Shawcross.
Yet, the bad blood persists. Welsh national team manager – Chris Coleman – has been trying to convince Shawcross to join the sqaud, admitting that though it may be awkward, the addition of the centerback would help the team qualify for Brazil 2014. Ramsey insisted the decision was not up to him, but also reaffirmed a point that’s been bothering him for a while: he still hasn’t received an official apology from Shawcross, though the defender did text the Arsenal right after the injury. Ramsey himself admitted he had brushed off Shawcross’ intial attempts to apologize. Ultimately, the decision would be left to Coleman said the Welsh captain.
Today the Press Association reported Shawcross ‘pledged his allegiance’ - their words, sounds cultish – to England, snubbing Wales in the process. The news was greeted with relief by some, who indicated Ramsey really didn’t want the Stoke man on the team.
I admittedly ask a lot from Ramsey when wondering why he will not forgive and forget. A leg broken in six places, a year away from the game and a spot on the starting eleven no longer guaranteed – not that it ever was. In as much it’s another storyline to watch for when the Gunners travel to Britannia Stadium on Sunday, a game in which, once again, Ramsey will start on the bench.