'They're saying Zlatan ruined my career!' - England defender on getting schooled by Ibra
Ryan Shawcross made his England debut over three years ago but still cannot escape the evening he was spooked by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
With 16 minutes left to play, Shawcross was introduced as a substitute to find Ibrahimovic at his imperious best, with the Sweden forward scoring three of his four goals, including a stunning bicycle kick from 30 yards.
Shawcross is often reminded of that night in Stockholm by family and close friends, while it appears to have left an indelible mark in the minds of Roy Hodgson and his coaching staff. He has not been picked for an England squad since.
“I’m the butt of the joke in my family, just because the 10 minutes I had in international football was ruined by one man,” he says, closing his eyes and laughing.
“They are consistently saying that Zlatan ruined my career! I had a chance and I don’t think many other defenders have stopped him.
“I was given 10 minutes to show what I could do and probably didn’t provide a good enough performance. I was against one of the best strikers in the world who was on a hot streak at the time and these things happen."
Shawcross is deadly serious, however, about his lack of international involvement since that November evening at the Friends Arena.
He continues to be overlooked by England even though the statistics appear to back up Stoke manager Mark Hughes’s claims that he should be a regular.
After a back operation in the summer his return to the team coincided with a run of 542 minutes without conceding a Premier League goal while he was on the field. His performance against Manchester United in December’s 2-0 home victory was widely acclaimed and had supporters of his former club wishing he had never left.
After the win over Chelsea he was given a year’s free supply of deodorant after a dominant performance against Diego Costa, who had suggested he had a problem with body odour.
But it’s the fact he gets ignored by England that, he suggests, really stinks. “I’ve been playing well for the last three or four years and I don’t seem to be getting in so I can’t see it changing in the future unless the manager changes,” he says.
“It’s just the way football is, some managers like players that others don’t. At the moment it's either that he doesn’t think I’m up to it or the lads he’s picking are better than me. That’s fine.
“Is that unfair? Yes, but it’s a ruthless game. You do find that the lads who move to the bigger clubs get more recognition. They play in Europe and there’s a lot more prestige around them.
“But my performances on the pitch for Stoke have been good enough to get in the England team and so far the call hasn’t come.”