One of the many ugly aspects of football is injury. It happens at every level, and no matter the safeguards in place for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation they can be a terrifying and harsh reality. For some it’s a recurring issue which unfairly looms over them for the rest of their playing days. And with that looming memory of pain and suffering comes doubt in the minds of everyone from the player to the spectator.
This has been the unfortunate case for Luke Shaw.
Shaw’s injury trouble came fast and early, and was sealed for many with a gruesome injury in the UEFA Champions League against PSV Eindhoven in 2015. It was a long way back into the first team, and several minor injuries piled up to make the comeback harder. In response, Shaw bulked up. Instead of recognizing the value of it, the response of many (myself included) was to comment on the weight gain. Regardless of how much better Shaw got in the last three seasons, his bulking up and his reputation for injuries continued to effect the narrative around him. We even thought there was a realistic chance of Brandon Williams usurping him at one point. The club also brought in Alex Telles, which only lit a fire under Shaw as he responded with a player of the year calibre season.
Now, after a brilliant performacne for England at the Euros, it is time to finally stop doubting Shaw and accept the reality that he is one of the best left backs in the game.
Luke Shaw was recognized at an early age for a reason. He was one of several Southampton products of the 2010s to earn a move to a big club. Injuries have cost him some of his youth, but it hasn’t stopped him from developing into arguably the best left back in the Premier League by the age of 26. As he celebrates that birthday he has a lot to look back on already, but more importantly much to look forward to.
Luke Shaw is one of the first names on the team sheet in both a rejuvenated, strong Manchester United side and the best England team in half a century. He is also going on three straight years of progression without missing too much time through injury, culminating in a return to the England side for a big performance at the Euros. Which brings us to the reason for this article, the moment.
Luke Shaw’s Euros performances were brilliant, and to cap it off with a goal in the Final against Italy seemed too perfect. It was a heartbreaking loss for him and this England team on penalties, but for just one moment the entire world was witness to the encapsulation of Luke Shaw’s Renaissance. Great tournament performances usually have a signature moment, and this was his. And no one can ever take it away from him. His was a career burdened with uncertainty, ridicule, and bad luck, yet he battled through to set his own standard. That Luke Shaw is the one that Luke Shaw wants us to see. Though he once bore so many question marks about his game and his health, he now rightfully bears the expectation of greatness.