MARK HUGHES has hailed Ryan Shawcross as 'one of the best defenders in the country' as he prepares to make a landmark 200th Premier League appearance against Newcastle United tomorrow afternoon.
The City skipper is set to become the first Potters player to reach the milestone having established himself as a mainstay in the starting eleven following his switch from Manchester United almost seven years ago.
Shawcross has produced arguably the best form of his career under Hughes throughout the current campaign, leaving the Welshman with no doubt that his talents will be gracing the international stage regularly in the not too distant future.
"Ryan has been absolutely outstanding once again this season, just as he has in every other campaign he has been here at the club," the 50-year-old told stokecityfc.com.
"I have been incredibly impressed by his leadership qualities since I have been here and his willingness to come in each and every day and try to improve himself as a player.
"He has had an exceptional season and hasn't been recognised in the appropriate manner at international level in my opinion, but I am absolutely certain that will change in the future.
"He has been part of the international set-up before and has of course actually represented his country at full level."
He added: "As long as he continues to do what he has been doing he will become a regular for England. He certainly boasts all of the attributes needed to feature at that level."
Hughes says he sensed the defenders technical qualities when he first walked through the doors at the Britannia Stadium almost twelve months ago - and admits he hasn't been surprised in the slightest at the way he has adjusted to the new style of play.
"He has always impressed me with his defensive capabilities but from the moment I arrived here it was clear to me that he was technically very sound too," added the manager.
"Because of that, he has been able to adapt to the way that we want to play moving forward, and in fact has been a real shining light for us throughout the season.
"He is a real leader for us, both on and off the pitch, and commands the respect of everybody inside the dressing room.
"He has played a big part in this clubs recent history, and I am sure he will play an equal, if not even bigger role in the future. "
He added: "Ryan has improved this season by virtue of his tremendous attitude. He is the sort of player who comes in every day looking to improve every aspect of his game."