Stoke City transfers: January priorities, bargain buys, striker target breaks silence


Michael O’Neill’s Stoke City side have made a positive start to the season with the club in eighth position in the league and looking to build on that success.

With the next transfer window on the horizon, there’s every chance the club could dip into the market, or see players heading for the day.

We will be bringing you all the news as it happens right here on StokeLive.

Here’s a round-up of the latest transfer related stories we have been covering.

Stoke’s January transfer priority and the three players who could scupper it

A look forward at Stoke’s plans for mid-season, including a hole in the squad, an element of surprise and proven quality.

What do you think?

READ MORE:You can read the full story here.

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Bargain buys

City are operating under the shadow of Financial Fair Play rules that seriously limit the amount of money that the Coates family can hand O’Neill.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of deals to be had.

O’Neill has already recently made the most of the free agent market to bring in Morgan Fox, James Chester, John Obi Mikel and Steven Fletcher – and there are still 49 players who last featured in the Premier League or second tier who are without a new club.

Any of those four dozen can sign for a club outside of the transfer window and it includes the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Jack Wilshere, Ryan Shotton and Nathan Dyer.

There are another 119 currently in the Championship who are reported to be out of contract next summer. They could be on the move for nothing then or a cut price deal mid-season when the window opens on January 1.

That includes Bradley Dack at Blackburn, Britt Assombalonga at Middlesbrough, Andreas Weimann at Bristol City and Troy Deeney at Watford.

There are midfielders who stand out at this level including Preston duo Alan Browne and Ben Pearson and Sheffield Wednesday’s Barry Bannan.

READ MORE:Here are the names currently in the black books of every transfer chief at every club in the division, with an asterisk to indicate if they are currently available. Who catches your eye?

The ones that got away

In the summer of 2016, Stoke City had just finished in the Premier League top half for a third season in a row under Mark Hughes and the transfer columns reflected their status.

Hughes was in for Jack Grealish, who had been in and out of favour as Aston Villa were relegated from the top flight; Alex Witsel, the Zenit St Petersburg and Belgium midfielder; as well as Robin van Persie, who was reportedly ready to quit Fenerbahce, and 17-year-old Christian Pulisic, who was apparently keen for a quick route to senior football.

There were also long-running sagas in the background about Saido Berahino and Nathan Redmond.

Stoke did end up signing Berahino, after Joe Allen, Wilfried Bony, Bruno Martins Indi, Ramadan Sobhi and Lee Grant.

Berahino, Allen and Bony were greeted with excitement. Grant was runaway player of the season, Martins Indi was popular on loan and Allen has gone on to make more than 150 appearances as a key figure over the last four years.

But you can’t help wonder what might have been if Hughes had been able to add real flair to complement and compete with Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri and a proper holding midfielder to go alongside Giannelli Imbula, who was already falling rapidly out of favour.

READ MORE:Pete Smith looks back at what could have been

Stability

Stoke City hope and believe they are now in a new era of stability as the board puts its faith in Michael O’Neill.

O’Neill arrived at Stoke 12 months ago at a time when the club had as many managers in under two years (five), in slipping down from the Premier League to the foot of the Championship, as they had in the previous two decades.

But he kept the club up as his first task and they now sit one point outside the play-offs as he takes on the next: getting them back into the top flight.

Chief executive Tony Scholes said: “As I sit here and we reflect on the 12 months since Michael came in, our belief is that we’ve found the right man.

“We’ve enjoyed a good 12 months and that isn’t just the start of this season but the job Michael did from the day he walked in and the recovery from a pretty poor, a very poor position. Let’s remember we were bottom of the table and finished relatively strongly.

“We’ve taken that form into this season. The league table looks good at the moment, we’re in the right half of the table and our hope is that’s where we stay.

“Our absolute hope and expectation is that we’re going back to our norm: that we have managerial stability at the club. Mark Hughes was here for a number of years and before him, Tony Pulis was here for a number of years.

“Let’s hope that the last couple of years have been the aberration for us while we’ve been trying to find the right person.”

O’Neill has had to work under the constraints of Financial Fair Play but has been able to bring in eight new signings – as well as transform the back room team.

Alex Aldridge has joined as head of recruitment, Billy McKinlay is new assistant manager, David Rouse as keeper coach, Andy Cousins as lead analyst and Paul Walsh as head of sports science.

Scholes said: “What he’s brought to the club is organisation both on the pitch – he clearly understands the game and is able to communicate that understanding to the players – but also off the pitch in the way that the working week is managed.

“I think his recruitment of players has been very good but also of his own staff. He’s a good judge of character and he’s brought real quality staff into his team as well.

“He gives that staff the freedom to express themselves and do their work as well rather than dictating how things are done. He’s a good manager of people as well as of the first team.

“He’s calm under pressure and takes time to arrive at decisions. It’s been very impressive.”

O’Neill had looked past the team’s position when the vacancy arose to see a platform for a successful club in the long-term, with top class facilities and billionaire owners who, financial rules withstanding, are keen to invest managers with time.

Scholes said: “We are a Premier League club in the way we are set up – but one that is playing in the Championship and, up until Michael came in, that was playing pretty poorly in the Championship.

“That obviously dominates all of the questions, rightly so, and all the supporters’ thoughts and our thoughts as well.

“Behind that there’s a lot in place at the club which has been built up over a number of years and very strong foundations there.

“I’m also delighted to see that some of those foundations are coming through as Michael is prepared to give young players a chance in the team.

“We’re starting to see a number of players who have been developed in the Academy coming into the team; Tyrese (Campbell), Harry (Souttar), Nathan (Collins). Thibaud (Verlinden) is coming back from injury.

“We’ve got Lasse (Sorensen), Tom (Edwards) and Joe (Bursik) out on loan too and that’s supplemented by the players recruited, young players, Tashan (Oakley-Boothe), Jordan (Thompson) and Jacob (Brown) add to that young group.

“The great thing is that Michael is giving all those players a chance and they’re adding energy to the team.”

‘All I can do’

Former Stoke City transfer target Sam Cosgrove is determined to show his doubters that he is still a multi-million pound striker.

The Aberdeen striker opened his account on his first Pittodrie start of the season in Friday’s 2-0 Scottish Premiership win over Hibs.

It marked his first goal since February and first in the league since December after a serious knee injury forced him to sit out the early months of the season.

Cosgrove was linked with Stoke, QPR and Boro last season, the interest appears to have now waned.

With his form and fitness returning, Cosgrove could see the interest returning.

He told the Daily Record: “All I can do now is try to replicate the form I had here last season.

“If I keep scoring and the team are performing then I don’t see why the interest can’t be generated and why it can’t happen.”

Speaking of his injury nightmare, he reveals that at first he thought the worst, stating.

“Before we got the scan results it didn’t look good,” he said. “The mechanism of the injury and the way it happened it looked as if it could be something that was potentially worse.

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“As it was, it wasn’t ideal as fracturing your knee isn’t a great injury. But it could have been a lot worse. It was a positive.

“It has been a long road to recovery especially when the team’s doing so well because you can feel as if you are missing out.

“To be back on that pitch there is no better feeling.”

He was on the books of Everton and Wigan Athletic as a teenager and had a loan spell at Nantwich Town in the spring of 2016, when the side was free-scoring under Phil Parkinson.

The loanees

Stoke City trio Tom Edwards, Lasse Sorensen and Joe Bursik are ‘learning a lot’ as they try to catch Michael O’Neill’s eye on loan in League One.

Harry Souttar has demonstrated the value of a long-term loan move after coming back from 18 months at Fleetwood Town and taking to the Championship so smoothly.

Now that’s the challenge facing right-back Edwards, who is with Fleetwood for the season; midfielder Sorensen at MK Dons; and keeper Bursik at Doncaster Rovers.

Stoke Academy director Gareth Owen said: “We get regular reports in about how they’re doing and we keep in contact. We’ll keep a close eye on them and keep watching their matches whether, in the current circumstances, that’s in person or online.

“Tom has done very well in his first games with his assists, getting forward and getting crosses in and it’s about standing up physically to the demands he’ll get week in week out in League One.

“Joe’s played every game in the league and he’s been man of the match on a couple of occasions. He’s been rewarded with a place in the England under-21s squad so that’s really pleasing.

“Lasse’s been in and out of the team and now he’s got a new manager (Russell Martin) who he’s got to impress. You have to use that experience as a positive and show how you can bounce back.

“It takes some getting used to; being in and out of the team and making sure you’re available for selection every week.”

Game time is the priority but for Edwards and Sorensen, both aged 21, and Bursik, aged 20, it’s the whole experience which is part of development.

Owen said: “There are a lot of things to factor in and it’s not just what happens on the pitch. It’s changing home, a new changing room and new life experiences.

“The course of a season has many ups and downs and all three will learn a lot.”

Stoke’s younger players have also had a taste of life on loan, with under-18s striker Ryanjay Malbon spending time at Hanley Town.

Owen said: “It’s one of our policies to try to get first year scholars out to experience first team football. If they’ve been with us for a number of years they only get to see one way of playing and how things are with our facilities.

“Ryan went to Hanley for four weeks before lockdown and it will have been an eye opener. He got two goals in four games and it will have been an invaluable learning experience.

“We had 15 players out on loan at that level last season. This season is a bit more difficult because of the Covid situation but we’ll try because we do recognise how useful it can be.”





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