Know Your Stoke: Ryan Shawcross

24-year-old captain leads Potters from central defense

Ryan Shawcross- Stoke City

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In the weeks leading up to the Crew's July 24 exhibition with Stoke City of the Barclays Premier League, TheCrew.com will highlight a player from the Potters' roster each week to help fans of the Black & Gold get to know the Crew's English opponent. The series begins with Stoke City defender and captain, Ryan Shawcross.

Ahead of the 2010-11 season, Stoke City manager Tony Pulis entrusted his faith in then-22-year-old center back Ryan Shawcross to lead the Potters following the departure of Abdoulaye Faye. The move worked out pretty well for Pulis and the Potters as Shawcross led City to its first ever FA Cup Final that season.

Shawcross came up through the Manchester United academy system and made two appearances for the senior team in the Red Devils' 2006-07 Carling Cup campaign. However, being stuck behind United mainstays Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, Alex Ferguson loaned him to Royal Antwerp in January of that season. Before the 2007-08 season began, Shawcross was loaned to Stoke City where the young center back in Tony Pulis' back line.

In January 2008, Stoke acquired Shawcross permanently and the rest is history as he helped the Potters return to the top flight for the first time in 23 years. In addition to promotion, Shawcross' season was higlighted by seven goals for the Potters.

Named captain in 2010, Shawcross has led Stoke to an extended stay in the Premiership. The young center back's steady improvement over the past few seasons has earned him looks for the English national team. Though he has yet to earn a cap for the Three Lions, he was considered for the Euro 2012 roster.

Stoke City is set to begin their fifth consecutive season in the Barclays Premier League in 2012-13.