Stoke City’s pursuit of West Bromwich Albion’s outgoing veteran Chris Brunt is not cut and dried, The Sentinel understands.
Manager Michael O’Neill is keen on the 35 year-old and Brunt will be a free agent shortly.
But there remains concerns over the average age of the current Stoke squad and the manager himself has made no secret of his desire to reduce it.
That is supported by the club’s hierarchy, not least at a time of belt tightening in the wake of Premier League relegation and the coronavirus pandemic.
Chris Brunt is the latest high-profile name to be linked with Stoke City this summer.
The connections are obvious after serving City boss Michael O’Neill so royally with Northern Ireland.
And it is barely four months since O’Neill tried to prise him out of West Bromwich Albion at the end of the January transfer window.
O’Neill clearly remains a big fan and Brunt would be free as he is running out of contract at West Brom.
But at 35, there will be those raising an eyebrow at his signing, even on a relatively short-term deal.
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The compromise could be a like-for-like replacement in the Stoke squad because Stephen Ward, who turns 35 in August, is out of contract and expected to leave the Potteries after one year at the club.
O’Neill sees Brunt as a possible replacement at left back despite playing him in midfield, centrally or on the left, for the majority of their time together with Northern Ireland.
O’Neill almost clinched Brunt’s arrival at the end of the January transfer window, but the deal fell through when the club failed to secure the departure of Bruno Martins Indi.
Brunt made no secret of his disappointment when commenting shortly afterwards: “I was gutted to be fair. He (O’Neill) got some of the best football out of me in my career. And the opportunity to go and work with him again would be something I would have enjoyed.”
Martins Indi missed the game at Derby on the final day of January while his future lay in doubt, but he subsequently returned to the team at left back for the next seven fixtures before the season was halted.
The former Dutch international subsequently refuted any suggestions his heart was no longer in Stoke when speaking after his next game for the club (the 3-1 home win over Charlton on February 8).
“I showed a lot of commitment in terms of being a very professional player,” he stated, “which I’ve always been here at Stoke City.
“And I will do that until I am not a player of Stoke City and nobody knows how long that is going to take.
“He (O’Neill) knows what I can give to his team and what I can give to this club.”
A question mark has hovered over the Dutchman’s future in every transfer window since Stoke’s relegation from the Premier League two years ago and the next one looks like being no different.
Martins Indi, now 28 and a Stoke player since August 2016, signed his last contract in 2017 and his current deal is expected to run until 2022.