Stoke City players’ contract situation as loan route planned for prospects


Michael O’Neill says the focus will always be on putting out the best team to win as he insists young players are involved in the squad on merit.

O’Neill has handed league debuts to Joe Bursik and Harry Souttar this season and Tyrese Campbell and Nathan Collins have been increasingly key figures.

The exits of senior fringe men in January have allowed the door to be nudged ajar for other prospects and Will Forrester, Christian Norton and Kieran Coates have featured on the bench.

Dan Malone and Lewis Macari are among others who have trained with the seniors but the path forward is expected to involve loan moves next season, as Souttar had with Fleetwood to propel himself into the plans.

Asked if he was tempted to give more young players a chance instead of players who were coming to the end of their contracts, O’Neill said: “I think we’ve only one player out of contract so there’s not many in that situation to be honest.

“We’ve had younger players on the bench in recent games and that’s been driven by the nature of the injuries we’ve had at this minute.

“I think realistically those players are still a little bit away from starting games. The Championship is a tough league to blood players in at that age. Most players will have to have a pathway where they go out on loan.


Video Loading

Video Unavailable

“They’ve no experience of playing senior football, they’ve been playing at under-18s or under-23. It’s a massive jump for a young player to make to the Championship.

“The most important thing between now and the end of the season is to win as many games as possible. That’s our only focus. If we have young players that deserve to play, they’ll have the opportunity to play. But I won’t necessarily pick teams without a purpose, the purpose will be to try to win the game.

“You can say the younger players but I think at one point this season Stoke have played the youngest team in 17 years. I don’t think you can say we haven’t blooded younger players this season.”

Jordan Cousins’ contract runs out at the end of this season while options are expected to be taken to extend James Chester and John Obi Mikel’s stay into next term.

O’Neill has spoken about the gap in his squad for regular first teamers aged between 23 and 28 and he was quizzed on whether Stoke will be in a better position to bridge that gap at the end of this season than in the last summer window.

He said: “The biggest obstacle to that is the number of players we have under contract rather than how Stoke is perceived as a club. I think the perception of Stoke as a club is still very high.

“People look at the size of the club, the fan base and passion, the facilities. It’s a very strong option for players in the Championship and a very strong option for even for some players dropping down from the Premier League as well.

“Again we will have a situation in the summer when we have 12 players returning to the club who are under contract. While we possibly see that there future lies elsewhere, they may not. Until that situation is resolved we have to be that little bit more careful in how we build a squad.

“We have restrictions financially because of that as well.”

The financial obstacles include the stopping of parachute payments three years after relegation from the Premier League.

O’Neill said: “Yes, you have your parachute payments for three years in the Championship so that changes the financial model of the club to some extent.

“We may have great owners who want to back the club as much as possible but we have to operate within the rules of the EFL as well.

“There are a number of challenges but are we stronger than we were? I think we are.

“We also have a lot of players who will be in the last year of their contract next season and that will probably be a period when we have to make decisions on players and maybe the greatest transition of the squad will happen at that point.

“It will be a fourth year in the Championship and the club invested in a number of those when they came down to the Championship. We don’t have that many left from the club’s last season in the Premier League, the majority are acquired when the club came down. There is a natural transition on that as well.”





Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *