First there was Joe Allen and now there are seven. Little by little the midfielder has been surrounded in the Stoke City squad by fellow Wales internationals.
The signing of Rabbi Matondo and Rhys Norrington-Davies this month has left supporters dubbing the Potteries ‘Stoke-on-Gwent’. Gareth Bale might fit the bill next, perhaps, if Stoke weren’t already chasing flying Charlton left winger Alfie Doughty.
Or perhaps not. Michael O’Neill insists he hasn’t been looking at passports too closely as he’s gone about re-shaping the squad he inherited in 2019.
But bringing in players who fit straight into the changing room is key to trying to help them hit the ground running.
“It’s purely chance – there’s no other reason, honestly!” he said.
“One of the benefits of it is, though, that the players feel comfortable, the new signings have come in and know other lads. That’s good.
“Even Jack Clarke coming in is familiar with some of our players having been away with England at a younger age, Joe Bursik and Tyrese for example.
“All of those things help players settle in and the most important thing, in particular for loan players coming in, is to help them quickly become part of things. Then that means their only focus is on how they perform.
“We’ve got a nice blend.
“There are a lot of young players around the squad; the three loan players are 20 or 21, we’ve got Souttar and Collins, Campbell prior to injury, Tymon, Oakley-Boothe, Bursik… it’s nice to have those young players around the squad to add to the players we’ve got in the building.”
Stoke City’s Wales internationals
Joe Allen, Sam Vokes, Adam Davies, James Chester, Morgan Fox, Rabbi Matondo, Rhys Norrington-Davies.