It is less than a fortnight now until the first transfer window shuts at Stoke City and, in some ways, that might more important than the second.
The window will close for international deals on October 5, with hopes that Stoke might be busy before then trying to re-house two, three or more players who are nowhere near their first team.
There will be further manoeuvring over the following 11 days before the domestic window shuts at 5pm on Friday, October 16.
Here we look at the business already done by Stoke this summer, assess the prospect of more new recruits and take a look at who could be going through the exit door.
Stoke City’s transfer business so far
Morgan Fox – free agent
Michael O’Neill said: “He’s a natural left-sided defender, can play left-back and left wing-back. What he brings is good experience in the Championship.
“He’s at a good age, still got a lot to prove and he’s keen to do that in his career as well. He’s got good physical attributes and he’s a very confident player as well. I’ve been very pleased with what we’ve seen to date and I think he’ll be a good signing for the club.”
James Chester – free agent
Michael O’Neill said: “James proved himself last season in relation to the high number of points we got with him in the team. He can play in a back three, can play in a back four and he’s a really good character, a good type and a really top centre-back.”
Steven Fletcher – free agent
Michael O’Neill said: “Steven has had a little bit of an injury which has set him back a little bit but his goal record has been impressive wherever he’s been. He leads the line well, he has a physical presence and real quality in terms of link-up play.”
John Obi Mikel – free agent
Michael O’Neill said: “You’re always wary taking a player from abroad but with John it wasn’t like that because he’d been in the UK for so long. There was no worries about that scenario.
“What John has demonstrated – and his fitness levels are improving all the time, having not played since March – is that every day in training is a top quality player who can handle the ball and is able to tactically understand the game and help the players around him tactically. He’s been great since he came in.”
Jacob Brown – undisclosed fee thought to be just over £2m, from Barnsley
Michael O’Neill said: “Jacob has a different profile. He’s very quick and a powerful boy. He’s stepping up, I believe. The next phase of his career is to do it at a club like Stoke. He’s a boy with really high ambitions and a great attitude to work and a player we’re delighted to get in the building.”
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Released: Adam Federici (Macarthur), Mame Diouf (Hatayspor), Stephen Ward (Ipswich Town), Jake Dunwoody (Derry City), Cameron McJannet (Derry City).
Julien Ngoy (KAS Eupen, undisclosed)
Ryan Woods (Millwall, season-long loan)
Peter Etebo (Galatasaray, season-long loan)
Joe Bursik (Doncaster Rovers, season-long loan)
Lasse Sorensen (MK Dons, season-long loan)
Benik Afobe (Trabzonspor, season-long loan)
Who else could leave?
There are still three senior, well-paid players who aren’t currently training with the first team: Moritz Bauer, Badou Ndiaye and Kevin Wimmer.
The search is on for new homes and it is the loan market, probably overseas, which looks the best bet to find a way of making deals affordable.
Ndiaye has had plenty of gossip column inches in Turkey but no bites as yet.
It has been quieter about Bauer, who spent last year with Celtic, and Wimmer, who was with Royal Excel Mouscron.
There are others who have not featured for Michael O’Neill this season and barely last season.
Tom Edwards and Liam Lindsay headline that category, while Jordan Cousins and Lee Gregory’s game time might seem more limited.
There’s Jack Butland and Tom Ince too, who have fallen way down the pecking order and didn’t even make the bench for last week’s Carabao Cup tie at Wolves when Michael O’Neill shook up the starting XI.
And there’s always a chance of a surprise.
Player of the year James McClean hasn’t been in the squad for the first two league games and while O’Neill brushed off social media rumours about interest from Celtic, it is clear that most players have a price on their head in the age of Financial Fair Play.
The manager said: “The nature of the transfer window is such that you have to be flexible and if any situation arises with any player you have to give it consideration, particularly where we are at this minute in time.
“We have to obviously deal with the rules of Financial Fair Play and deal with too a squad which is bloated.
“James is no different from any other player in the squad and if the situation arose we’d have to consider it but at this minute in time, I think that would be highly unlikely.”
O’Neill sees Harry Souttar as part of his plans – but can he convince Souttar – who has… suitors – that he’ll get the game time he wants?
What is the Jack Butland situation?
Off the pitch, Jack Butland has less than a year left on his contract and his agent has been clear that it won’t be extended. Paul Stretford is looking for a new club either in this window or January.
On the pitch, Adam Davies is the runaway new number one with five clean sheets and a few man of the match turns in his eight appearances since inheriting the gloves in July.
There have been whispers of a potential swap deal with Southampton – but Ralph Hasenhüttl is ready to let Angus Gunn leave because he has Alex McCarthy and Fraser Forster, not because he is in need of a new keeper.
O’Neill said: “To me personally, I’ve not concentrated on the past – the past is the past and I don’t think looking back on what has happened in the two years since arguably the World Cup helps Jack, if I’m honest.
“What he has to deal with is there here and the now and the situation he finds himself in at this minute in time.
“I think it’s a pretty straightforward situation to be honest. Jack has got a year left on his contract. If he stays here, it’s in his interests to have a really good season. If he has a really good season, that will be good for Stoke.
“But equally, as his agent has been in the paper talking about his situation and leaving the club, if Jack were to leave, then that is a situation we have to deal with – and if that opportunity arises that might be something we look at.
“For me, first of all, he has got real competition for the jersey here because Adam Davies finished the season extremely strongly. In four very tight games and games that had a lot riding on them, Adam showed a great mentality as well.
“The goalkeeping position is healthy and Jack has to just focus on this season. I don’t think looking back on where he was or why it’s happened or what if situations arise really helps him at all.
“I know (keeper coach) David Rouse has really worked very closely with him since coming into the club and the onus is with the player now.”
The killer question for Stoke is what would happen if Butland did leave now?
Blondy Nna Noukeu has been the third keeper in the training circle but is still only 18, even if he has just been called up for Cameroon’s senior squad.
Joe Bursik, aged 19, is on a year-long loan at Doncaster Rovers, hoping that next summer he’ll come back with the experience to challenge to be top dog at Stoke.
Nathan Broome, aged 18, is an England youth international too and is currently recovering from a shoulder injury.
Three excellent prospects, even if only one is available. Too soon to be deputy if anything were to happen to Davies?
Could Tom Ince leave?
It is clear that Ince is not in favour at the moment. There would be an interesting Venn diagram of clubs who would want him and clubs who could afford him.
Could Michael O’Neill bring in any new signings?
It has been evident that there really needs to be departures before any more arrivals are sanctioned.
O’Neill said: “We did business early to get players in. I think they were the types of players we needed.
“We were very restricted, obviously, because of the rules of Financial Fair Play. It wasn’t like we could go out and spend the money the club has previously in the Championship.
“We had to do our business quickly and we’re delighted with the players we’ve brought in.
“I think they’ve made the squad stronger and dressing room better and that’s important.
“I think we’re always looking to improve the squad but we’re a little bit restricted by our numbers. We would have to get players out before we make any more additions.
“Hopefully players on the periphery of things get the opportunity and get an opportunity which appeals to them because it’s in everyone’s interest that we trim the squad.”
Where will Stoke City finish in the Championship?
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Where might Stoke prioritise if they did make a new signing?
When he set out to field ‘not necessarily a weaker team’ against Wolves last week, Michael O’Neill could afford to make seven changes.
He has got plenty of centre-halves, plenty of central midfielders and plenty of strikers.
If he reverted to wingers he now has Jacob Brown competing with Tyrese Campbell and Tom Ince on the right and Thibaud Verlinden coming back from injury to rival James McClean on the left, as well as versatile Josh Tymon.
At right-back, Tommy Smith is first choice by a long stretch. Tom Edwards has his supporters but he hasn’t played in the league since before Christmas last year.
In that regard, an inquiry about Nathan Byrne, who went to Derby from Wigan, and a link with Kieron Freeman, a free agent after leaving Sheffield United, seemed to make sense.
The goalkeeping situation will also be one to watch if the phone starts ringing about Butland.