Rory Delap is certain Stoke City can overcome the damaging loss of Joe Allen when they resume their high-stakes season at Reading on Saturday.
Allen is missing long term after rupturing his achilles tendon in Stoke’s last game before lockdown in March.
The likes of Jordan Thompson and Jordan Cousins will be battling to take his place at Reading and Delap is encouraged by the competition.
“Listen, it’s definitely a blow not having Joe because he’s obviously a very important player for the team, no question about that,” said Delap.
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“But we have known about his absence and we do have two or three lads who can come in and take that role and the responsibility that comes with it.
“Joe has been a mainstay for a number of years now, but that doesn’t stop someone coming in and staking their claim.”
Manager Michael O’Neill and his staff also have options at centre half where it is two from Danny Batth, Ryan Shawcross, James Chester, Nathan Collins and Liam Lindsay.
“It’s great that we have got those options,” Delap observed.
“There’s some really strong candidates in there and they have a week to force their way into the starting 11 at Reading.
“As the managerial team, we have got to go off what we see in training and from any in-house games we have or practice matches.
“We will see who’s in form and go from that.”
The first-team coach continued: “In every position, not just at centre half, there’s players in contention and I’ve got to say the training has been of a high tempo and a very good quality.
“That is a real positive as we enter what will be a robust period physically for the players by playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday and so on.
“We will need the squad and we won’t be weakening the team much, if at all, whoever we put in because no-one is miles off it.
“So if we pick up an injury, or someone needs a rest after clocking up the miles after three, four, five games, we know we can trust those we are putting in.”