RYAN SHOTTON has become a key figure in Middlesbrough’s promotion charge under Tony Pulis, even if he did fear what was around the corner just a few months ago when Garry Monk lost his job.

That might sound strange given he had only appeared three times in the Championship under Monk after Boro had paid £2.5m to Birmingham last summer. That was exactly how it was, before he learned he would have to get his long throw out again under ex-boss Tony Pulis.

Shotton’s chances had been severely limited under Monk. With the exception of an outing in the EFL Cup, he was a substitute against Bolton back in August and then started the 2-2 draw with Brentford on September 30.

Then Monk threw him back into the mix at Sheffield Wednesday on December 23 and scored the late winner with seven minutes remaining – and that result was expected to have earned the former Leeds manager a stay of execution.

Instead chairman Steve Gibson had already decided he had seen enough after an inconsistent start to a year when he wanted Middlesbrough to make an immediate return to the Premier League. Monk was gone, Pulis was appointed on Boxing Day. Shotton didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The 29-year-old said: “The day I played the Sheffield Wednesday game I played well and we won and Garry was brilliant. He went, ‘right I can go out in Yarm and take my kids to school and enjoy myself for a week!’ Four hours later we found out he’d been sacked, it was crazy.

“All my friends were saying, ‘This is brilliant, he’s gone,’ but I thought, ‘I’ve just had one of the best games of my career. How is that good?’ It was uncertain. When Tony was appointed I went, ‘I’m probably going to have to turn back to a full-back!’

“That’s OK, as long as I’m playing. I haven’t looked back. I’ve found my love back for right-back at the minute. I’m enjoying it. The throw-in was definitely coming out again! I was lying to myself to be playing centre-half. I’m more than happy I’m in the team.”

Shotton became a solid defender during his time at Birmingham, having played more regularly out wide during his time at Stoke under Pulis and then Derby County. He was a key part of the Stoke squad under Pulis that secured promotion to the top-flight, so knew exactly what to expect when he took over at the Riverside.

The likeable defender is convinced he is the right man to get players playing well, provided they understand and appreciate what is being asked of them – and used Adama Traore’s turnaround as the perfect example.

Shotton said: “If a player is willing to work as hard as he’s asking Tony will bring the best out of people. He will challenge the player.

“If Adama buys into it, which he has done brilliantly so far, Tony can really help him in the right way, he knows how to man manage players.

“I was playing right wing for Tony when I was at Stoke. I was only young. For him to put the trust in me was massive.

“I say it all the time, Tony wants you to work hard, work hard and work hard. He emphasises so much on that you’re not say anything else. You have to fight for the team and do the right things. As long as you have the right intentions and you try your best you’ll do OK by him.”

Despite a three-year break from working under Pulis he has never forgot what his demands are like, which is why he has performed well for him so far on Teesside. He will be looking for that to continue when leaders Wolves head to the North-East on Good Friday, and Middlesbrough look to stay in the promotion picture.

Shotton said: “It was like we’d been away for a week and right let’s get back on the field. In a sense he never changed, but he’s learned a few things along the way, about how to look after your body outside the pitch, he’s brought in yoga and breakfast is a little bit different. Breakfast is the same, it just has to be before nine o’clock. Then you have an hour and a half before you start your gym work.”

Shotton was brought up just a short drive from Stoke in Fenton, and he still runs a pub down that way which he regularly goes and checks up on. Having moved around regularly – eight clubs in ten years – he hopes his Middlesbrough experience lasts a decent chunk of time.

He has no complaints about what he has experienced, well, except for at Derby where former Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren effectively moved him on 18 months ago after a run-in.

He said: “I didn’t know I’d had that many clubs. At the time I was 18, 19, 20 going to Altrincham, Tranmere, Barnsley on loan, they were the best times I had. You played with no care, with freedom and you just loved playing. I was lucky enough to be able to stay at home. The family kept me safe and grounded. It’s going to Derby that was the difficult part.

“I wanted to move away from the Stoke thing, the long throw and show what I can do. It was brilliant at first until I fell asleep in a hotel in Bournemouth and I was one minute late for Steve McClaren.

“The pressure was on. Bournemouth were top, we were second. I’d had my daughter a week before so I was sleep deprived. As soon as we got to the hotel I got my head down and slept.

“I woke up on the time we were supposed to meet so it was literally clothes on, and they were just walking away so I tried to catch them up, I tried to walk round and he said, ‘No, that’s it, that’s you done’.

“I said, ’It’s not as if I was out partying. I was in my room. You know where I am. I was sleeping.’ I’d annoyed him a couple of weeks before about being late and he was very disciplined on being late.”