It is just three days to the start of the new season, when Stoke City will kick off with a Carabao Cup tie against Blackpool.
There is a fortnight to go after that to prepare for the Championship – and the transfer window is open up until October 16 for domestic deals.
So, as if we were short of stories in 2020, expect them to come thick and fast and from all angles over the next few weeks.
Michael O’Neill has already brought in three new faces – and brought back one old one – as he has welcomed free agents Morgan Fox, Steven Fletcher, John Obi Mikel and James Chester to the squad which finished 15th last season.
He will still rely on the core who helped him haul the side up from the bottom and knee-deep in the muck – and has work to do yet to streamline the squad. There are players who won’t feature who need to find new homes as soon as possible.
Here, in our latest StokeonTrentLive transfer tavern Q&A, we discuss a number of big talking points from the transfer window and beyond.
The transcript of our fans’ forum is below, including the current status of Jack Butland, Tom Edwards, Lee Gregory and Tom Ince.
What’s the situation with Jack Butland?
As it stands, Jack Butland is more likely than not to spend the season with Stoke. This is a weird transfer window and Stoke certainly won’t stand in his way if an offer comes in but I wouldn’t bet on it at the moment. We should note that he saved a penalty today!
What’s going on with Tom Edwards?
Tom Edwards has turned down the opportunity of decent loan moves and made it clear to Michael O’Neill that he wants to really fight for his place as right-back. He was criticised for his fitness in the re-start but he’s come back looking very lean and, seemingly, with a fresh determination. It looks like a kick up the backside might have done the trick.
He’s a talented lad and his crossing is excellent. It’ll be interesting if he gets a chance as wing-back.
There have been whispers about a new right-back too so it’s imperative for Edwards and Tommy Smith to impress in pre-season.
How about Harry Souttar?
O’Neill is assessing Harry Souttar at first hand before deciding what to do. He was clearly one of the best centre-backs in League One for the past 18 months on loan at Fleetwood.
Is he ready to be chucked in to a team hoping to compete for promotion in the Championship?
Any update on Lee Gregory?
I don’t think many of us would be surprised if Lee Gregory moved on considering the competition that Stoke now have up front. He hardly figured in the second-half of last season and now there’s Steven Fletcher and Benik Afobe too.
That said, he’s clearly a work horse and he’s certainly not for the bomb squad.
Any news on (Leeds Utd left-back) Leif Davis coming in?
League One clubs have been chasing Josh Tymon on loan but he’s still here and that might suggest he’s still in O’Neill’s thinking, particularly if Stoke go with wing-backs.
Where is Sam Vokes?
Vokes has been working with Joe Allen and the physios in pre-season but we’ll try to get an official update on what’s going on. I wouldn’t read too much at the moment into his absence in the friendlies.
Any update on (Newcastle winger) Jacob Murphy?
No one is expecting anything imminent with Murphy. He’s been keen to go back to Sheff Wed but Steve Bruce is in no rush to let him out anyway. Did well last year and most Championship clubs would take him.
Is Peter Etebo any closer to a move?
Etebo won’t be short of options but it’s a safe bet he won’t be starting the season at Stoke.
Who do you think will be our player of the season 2020/21?
Let’s go Nick Powell. If he is, then Stoke will have had a good season too.
What is happening with the rumours about wingers? Haven’t heard anything about Wilks/Jones/Boyle in a while.
Well, Jordan Jones looks destined to leave Rangers and with Stoke’s Northern Ireland connections – and need for a new winger – you can be pretty sure that the links will keep coming. Martin Boyle is in talks with Hibs about a new contract and all murmurs have gone quiet on Mallik Wilks.
One interesting thing to keep an eye on with Stoke is where O’Neill sees Tyrese Campbell, who had a good record playing wide last season. And how close is the wing-back system to starting the season as Stoke’s Plan A?
This question could have a completely different response, of course, if Tom Ince suddenly sparks into the old Tom Ince. Playing behind closed doors with no fan pressure… it’d be a massive bonus if it happened.
How do you reckon the midfield will line up this season with the incoming of Mikel? Also can you see anyone else coming in?
On paper, it looks pretty easy to go with Sam Clucas, Mikel and Nick Powell while Joe Allen is recovering from injury. But I think this season is going to be unique in terms of a consistent XI. Games are being squeezed in so quickly.
Jordan Thompson will get plenty of pitch time too and hopefully Tashan Oakley-Boothe will step up his development. Jordan Cousins seems pretty vulnerable as things stand.Message Actions
And yes, there will be more incomings.
How much game time do you think Adam Porter will get next year, Pete? And how long do you reckon it’ll take him to be a regular starter?
He’s been training with the seniors but there’s no doubt he’ll start with the under-23s. You never know. An injury or suspension – and there will be plenty of chance for both this hectic season – and a door could open.
No one will have deserved it more when he finally gets in the Stoke team. And he will at some point. The bar’s been set high with this midfield department. He knows what he’ll have to do to get in.
Other than Badou, are any other players close to being on the way out? O’Neill has reiterated the need to streamline the squad.
Yes, there are the four senior loan players who don’t have a future: Badou, Etebo, Wimmer and Bauer.
And expect the fringes to be tidied up. Liam Lindsay didn’t play after January, for example, and is wanted elsewhere in the Championship.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Bruno Martins Indi was snaffled away – if there are any takers.
How many of those on the edges can be re-homed will dictate just how many other incomings Michael O’Neill can get over the line before October 16. There are some bargains to be had in this window if there’s space.
Have there been any surprises in this brief summer training? Players? Tactics? Coaching?
Well, this is the one year when we haven’t had access to training at all. Pre-season is normally a time we’re allowed on the sidelines but access to Clayton Wood is very strictly controlled – even more strict than normal – understandably at the moment.
There’s an obvious optimism, though, which is good. Michael O’Neill comes across as a proper manager and leader and that sets the tone for everything else.
What’s your take on Alex Aldridge? Clever, shrewd move? Or new cheap fall guy for the executives?
Alex Aldridge makes me feel very old! Incredible progress to get to this position at 27 but he’s very highly rated by Neil Harris and Gary Rowett. It’ll be good to speak to him soon… but we might have to be patient.
Stoke want to make the most of all the opportunities to scouts in the modern game – that’s a mix of data analysis and old-fashioned reports from people with good eyes for talent. There’s due diligence on character. It will all be scrutinised very closely.
In your time getting to know Michael O’Neill, what has impressed you the most about him? What has surprised you the most? Where does his rescue job rank him among stoke managers?
O’Neill just seems so level-headed and organised. The Belfast press and those that had played for him kept saying in November that he would be extremely thorough and they’re right.
It was so easy to read the riot act through last season but he saved it for just a couple of occasions. I wouldn’t have liked to have been in the changing room after that defeat at Wigan.
It seems like, and hopefully is, more than a rescue mission. From this point here, it seems like the club is nosed in the right direction again, not just saved from the abyss. We’ve got a good ‘un.
What youth team has Gabriel Adebambo been registered into?
We’ll talk to Academy director Gareth Owen soon to get the lowdown on all the latest signings. Things have been very busy over the last couple of weeks but hopefully things are starting to settle down.
If Butland is to leave who in your personal opinion will come in to replace him and what effect will that have on Adam Davies?
Davies is the man with the gloves at the moment, you’d think, so it’s up to any challenger to win them off him.
Is Lasse Sorensen being loaned out? Seems a bit surplus for the moment with how stacked our midfield is?
There are a couple of good League One clubs who are keen to take Lasse Sorensen but he’s got a brilliant attitude and Michael O’Neill has been keen to keep him close at hand. You’re right, it’s a crowded department.
He needs to play this season, I think, and if it takes a loan move that’d be for the best.