Stoke City have started talks to try to extend the contract of Harry Souttar as the defender enjoys a fine breakthrough season.
Souttar has emerged as a key figure for Michael O’Neill since returning from 18 months on loan at Fleetwood Town and the manager told Radio Stoke that the club have started discussions to take his deal beyond 2022.
There had been significant competition for places in Souttar’s position when he returned for pre-season training after helping Fleetwood reach the League One play-offs.
But it has been an excellent few months for the 22-year-old, who took his chance to impress in the Carabao Cup and has gone on to help Stoke pick up more clean sheets than any other club in England in 2020.
O’Neill has also promoted 19-year-old Nathan Collins to first team regular alongside free agent summer signing James Chester or Danny Batth while Ryan Shawcross has recovered from injury to feature on the bench since early December.
Souttar’s progress has not gone unnoticed outside of the Potteries and this week he was the subject for the Daily Mail’s secret scout, who tracks the hottest prospects in the EFL.
They reported: “His height was a valuable asset when defending crosses. Slightly crouched in style, there is no question of his ability on the ball and he certainly looked strong enough to hold off opponents.
“His short passes were crisp but only occasionally did he play a longer diagonal pass. His pace was not really tested but he looked to have adequate speed.”
In terms of areas to improve, it was suggested: “He seemed to lack communication with his colleagues on occasions and when a ball bounced awkwardly in front of him he was slow to adjust his feet to clear. But several seasons ago I would have made the same observation about Harry Maguire.”