STOKE boss Nathan Jones knew Ryan Shawcross was in trouble as soon as he saw the defender crumple to the ground after a seemingly innocuous challenge.
The Potters captain was rushed to hospital during Stoke’s pre-season clash with Leicester after a tackle on Foxes winger Marc Albrighton.
The incident occurred just before half-time and saw his trailing left leg buckle beneath him and and his ankle twist in a horrifically unnatural direction.
Anxious teammates frantically signalled to the bench that the 31-year-old defender was seriously injured before medics applied an oxygen mask to ease his obvious pain.
And a concerned Jones confirmed his skipper will miss the start of the new campaign but was clinging to hope that he may have miraculously escaped a season-threatening break.
“It’s not an easy injury,” he said.
“He’s having X-rays and scans now and we don’t know the full extent of it so it would be wrong to speculate.
You can tell RIGHT AWAY when some people are injured
Stoke boss Nathan Jones on the injury to Ryan Shawcross
“We’ve got good medical staff with him and we’re waiting for results. There’s a lot that could happen. He could be kept in, he could come home quickly.
“But look, it’s not a two-week one, if you know what I mean, it’s something more serious. But until we find out there’s no points speculating.
“You can tell RIGHT AWAY when some people are injured. He goes down and he’s not one to do that. They put their arm up and you can tell it’s something very serious.”
Marc Albrighton, who was completely blameless and made no contact with Shawcross, revealed his shock and led the Leicester players in wishing Shawcross a speedy recovery.
“It’s never nice to see a player go down like that,” he said. “I didn’t really see it. I saw he was in pain. He said that he heard a crack.
“I’ve asked Stoke’s medical team to pass on my best wishes but they didn’t know how bad it was. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”
The injury is a massive blow to Jones just seven days before his side’s opening game of the season at home to QPR.
But he was more concerned for Shawcross and backed his skipper to battle back to fitness.
“Ryan is a warrior,” he said. “He’s been a lion for the club and since he’s come back he’s been in unbelievable shape, the best shape that people have seen him in for years.
“It’s really disappointing for the club but, more importantly, for Ryan.
“He’s got himself in great shape with a real hunger to do well this year. It’s sad really.
“Hopefully it’s nothing massively seriously and we will still see him in the not-too-distance future – let’s not write him off.”
Stoke fans rose to applaud their skipper as he was stretchered off and were joined by Leicester supporters.
Jones said: “Fans respect players who work hard and Ryan has been a very good servant for this club.
“He’s a big character and fans responded to him, which we appreciate.
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“It’s so disappointing after having worked so hard to get to this point. But ironically it’s better to happen now, one week before the start of the season, rather than two or three weeks down the line – but it’s not a good injury.”
Sam Voke’s had a feeble first half penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel before Albrighton fired Leicester in front with a stunning volley.
Nick Powell equalised with a fluke cross which deceived Schmeichel and dropped in at the far post, before Youri Tielemans ended a miserable day for the Potters with a late winner for the Foxes, who gave Harry Maguire the full 90 minutes.
After Shawcross’ stomach churning injury today, SunSport compiled the 15 worst football injuries ever.