Kevin Phillips looks at Stoke City’s threats up front – and their clean sheet record this season – and reckons they are genuinely in the long-term picture to make the Championship top six.
Stoke are eighth and one point outside the play-offs after a 3-0 win at Reading, with goals from Tyrese Campbell, Steven Fletcher and Jacob Brown.
Campbell, aged 20, is catching the eye with his goals and assists.
And Phillips, on EFL on Quest duty, said: “We saw the potential in him when we were there but he wasn’t consistent enough.
“It’s just through playing football matches, he’s maturing. He’s playing under a manager who’s coaching him day in day out and he’s getting his rewards.
“He’s also playing alongside Fletcher, Vokes and McClean, who I thought was excellent at Reading breaking up the play.
“Michael O’Neill has got players who are bang in form and they’re keeping clean sheets so it wouldn’t surprise me if you saw them in the play-offs come the end of the season.”
It is a year this weekend since Michael O’Neill arrived as a manager tasked with just keeping Stoke in the Championship.
Phillips said: “I think they were six points cut adrift when he took over so his record is phenomenal.
“Within the football world we all know what a good coach and a manager he is and he’s shown that.
“He’s dismantled that squad, started to bring in his own players, implementing his style and you’re seeing the rewards.
“Yes they got a bit lucky here and if Reading had their shooting boots on, it may have been a different story – but it doesn’t matter, it’s another win.
“And the clean sheets that he’s had (nine in 15 league and cup games this season) it’s quite phenomenal since he’s been there.”