Stoke City boss has eye on two positions in January transfer window


Michael O’Neill has a left-back and dynamic forward on the top of his January shopping list – but Stoke City are ready to let more players go too as they balance ambition with Financial Fair Play.

O’Neill is without Morgan Fox (hamstring) for possibly the whole of January while Josh Tymon (groin) is missing for about a fortnight, meaning Stoke haven’t been able to play a back four in their last two games.

The loss of talisman Tyrese Campbell (knee) for the season has hit hard too but Steven Fletcher is hoping to come into contention for the visit of Bournemouth on Saturday, the day the transfer window opens.

O’Neill said: “We’ve got a little bit of room to manoeuvre but I think people know the situation we have at the club in terms of Financial Fair Play and the rules of that which we have to abide by.

“Where we are at this minute in time is that we probably have to generate money out of the squad, which means players leaving the club.

“We’ve done that in the previous two windows with more players leaving than coming in. This window, while it might not be as stringent as the previous two, we’ll have to look at our options and left-back certainly becomes a priority now and we need something dynamic at the top end of the pitch as well.”

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Stoke end 2020 one place outside the play-off zone having started the year in fourth from bottom and O’Neill is keeping that progress in mind, even if disappointed that his injury-affected squad have missed chances to be higher.

He said: “I tend not to get too up or too down. When I arrived late last year we were in the bottom three and now we’re knocking on the door of the top six.

“We’ve done that by spending very, very little money. We’ve worked with the existing squad and I think we’ve got a better squad in place.

“We’re just a bit disappointed at the minute because we’ve been in games that we should have won and we could be easily three or four places higher in the league but we’re not.

“I’m not sure we’re ready for that just yet but equally what we’ve got out of the squad, what the squad has given us back has been fantastic. We’ve got a number of younger players into the team as well.

“That’s the way that we’re going to have to go forward but at the same time we’re here to build a team that can challenge for promotion and we have to believe we can be stronger in the second half of the season and make sure we give it a real go.”

Joe Allen made his first start in nine months against Forest on Tuesday while Sam Clucas and John Obi Mikel made their returns from injury as substitutes – even if the treatment room has a revolving door.

O’Neill said: “Josh did his groin in training and it’s too early to say exactly but it’s going to be a couple of weeks at least.

“Hopefully Fletch will come into contention for Saturday. Lee Gregory is out, Tyrese Campbell is out. In terms of the striking options, we’re very limited.

“But I was pleased with Sam Vokes against Forest. I thought he did very well in the game and on another night obviously could have possibly scored a winner at the end.”





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