23 Apr Stoke sleepwalking towards relegation – Ryan Shawcross
Ryan Shawcross admitted Stoke have been “sleepwalking” towards relegation after a draw with Burnley pushed them closer to the trapdoor.
The Potters are four points from safety with only three games left and manager Paul Lambert believes they need to win all their remaining matches to stay up.
Sunday’s clash with Burnley at the bet365 Stadium was billed as a must-win fixture and the hosts made the perfect start when Badou Ndiaye gave them the lead early on.
However, Ashley Barnes equalised in the second half and the game finished with Stoke players sitting dejectedly on the pitch.
Lambert highlighted a miss from Mame Biram Diouf at the end of the first half as the key moment, but captain Shawcross said: “You can’t nail our bad season to one chance.
“We’ve been sleepwalking into this, we’ve been disappointing all season so there’s a lot of factors that go into the situation we’re in and something needs to change and change quickly.
“We knew what we needed to do and unfortunately we didn’t. The effort was there, the endeavour was there but the quality was probably lacking. We’ve just not got that person who can put the ball in the back of the net, and unfortunately we keep conceding late goals.”
The Stoke fans showed their appreciation and support for Shawcross with a standing ovation in the 17th minute – he wears number 17 – after it was made public that he played against West Ham last Monday following the death of his father the day before.
He said of the gesture: “It’s fantastic. It’s one of those things, it’s not something I wanted to happen. It has been (a tough week) but life goes on.”
The reaction of players and supporters at the end of the match showed what a hammer blow the result was, and Stoke could be relegated next weekend if they lose at Liverpool and other results go against them.
A trip to Anfield is a daunting prospect but Stoke will hope timing is in their favour given the match comes in the middle of the two legs of Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final against Roma.
Asked how Stoke will cope with the threat of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, Shawcross said drily: “Hope they’re rested.
“We know what we’re up against. Obviously they’ve got two massive games in the Champions League, we’re sandwiched in between that so hopefully their focus is away from our game.
“We’ve got to win all three. It’s difficult but it’s not mathematically impossible yet so we go on fighting and we carry on hoping to pick up those three points. Football’s a strange sport and it throws up these surprises.”
For Burnley, the point coupled with Southampton’s loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals edged them closer to European football.
Winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson felt it could have been more, saying: “They were better than us in the first half and created chances but we were definitely the better side in the second half. We created our chances and we should have scored a second goal as well.”
Gudmundsson may well have the busiest summer of all Burnley’s players as he prepares to play in his first World Cup with Iceland, followed by likely Europa League qualifiers at the end of July.
“I’m not going to complain because I’m playing in the World Cup and the Europa League with Burnley,” he said. “I’m not that old, I think I can handle it.”