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England spot awaits improving Shawcross

Ryan Shawcross has been tipped to carry on improving as he returns from international duty to take his place in Stoke's in-form defence at Manchester United on Saturday.

• Crouch confident for United clash

Shawcross, 25, didn't make it off the bench during England's World Cup qualifying double-header against San Marino and Poland, which means Stoke are still waiting their first recognition in the senior national side since Mark Chamberlain.

But Mike Pejic, a Potteries legend who accrued four England caps during a long career with Stoke, Everton and Aston Villa, believes the Britannia Stadium skipper's time will come.

"I cover every Stoke game for local commercial radio these days and have been very impressed with Ryan," said Pejic. "I recognise what sort of character- a bit reserved and quiet- but his performance levels make up for that. And the captaincy has helped him. If you're quiet, you can find yourself in a shell but he has come out of that. He's also very consistent, which you need to be, and reliable.

"Reading defensive situations and sensing danger are two of his strongest points. They are big assets. You need to be switched on and he works on his positional play off the ball. His tackling is good, so is his heading, and he recovers well, as we saw when he checked out and managed that brilliant clearance off the line in the last few seconds at home to Manchester City recently.

"At international level, you have to adapt quickly and that's one of his major traits. You can't teach that. It has to be there. He has grown in stature in the last 12 months. His game has come on quite a lot."

Pejic made his England debut against Portugal in 1974 under Alf Ramsey and also faced Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Many believed he should have played more for his country and he says the current frustrations being felt by Peter Crouch are nothing new in the Potteries.

"It's not a new thing. Alan Hudson should have played more, Jimmy Greenhoff maybe. I wanted to see Crouchie and Paul Scholes picked ahead of Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson in the summer. There always seems to have been a problem with Stoke players being selected for England."

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