The San Marino game looks to be Shawcross's best chance to win his first England cap because manager Roy Hodgson will be less inclined to experiment in next Tuesday's tough away game in Poland.
Whitehead told The Sentinel: "It's brilliant that Ryan is in the squad; it's long overdue. He's been getting a bit of stick, but he has been outstanding.
"He's joined England in good form and hopefully he will get a chance.
"You only have to watch him to see how good he is. He is a big lad who reads the game superbly. He can head the ball, he is strong at the back and he is quick.
"Surely he will have a chance now to stamp his authority on the squad and be in there regularly."