Stoke City’s alternative option up front as transfer whispers grow


Michael O’Neill is considering using Nick Powell in attack as he tries to fill the void left by Tyrese Campbell.

Versatile Powell has been used across the park in the first half of the season and most recently on the right of a midfield three.

The return of Joe Allen, Sam Clucas and John Obi Mikel from injury will help free him up to get further forward – and O’Neill is weighing up the best system to get the best out of a squad that is still missing key personnel.

He said: “Nick’s played there a lot of his career, particularly at Wigan, when he played up front on a more regular basis. One of the big pluses has been the versatility of Nick.

“I think when we’ve played him, even at times last season off the left, he gave us something. It’s an option for us and I’ve been pleased with how he’s played on the right side of midfield.

“He gives you something different and he gives you an aerial threat as well. He’s very good when the ball comes in the box, as we’ve seen with recent headed winners.

“We’ll just look at what the combination is, whether we play a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 or go back to a four, you’re always trying to find a way to have your best players in the team. That’s the challenge with the likes of Nick because he is so versatile.”

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Steven Fletcher (knee) is hoping to be back for tomorrow’s home clash with Bournemouth, with Jacob Brown and Sam Vokes having started Tuesday night’s draw with Nottingham Forest.

But the loss of Campbell to a knee injury means that Stoke are in the market for “a dynamic” forward in the transfer window, which opens this weekend.

The number of links has escalated over the last few days and reported targets Duncan Watmore, who is coming to the end of a short-term deal at Middlesbrough, and Bright Osayi-Samuel, who is out of contract at QPR this summer, will be in every Championship boss’s little black book.

It is understood that there is no truth currently in a Stoke, Coventry and Sheffield Wednesday battle for Tottenham winger Jack Clarke, however, despite a report to the contrary.

A loan deal remains the most likely – but that will not be straightforward.

“The important thing for us was that, come January, we would be in a position where we could make a challenge and I think we are in that position,” said O’Neill.

“If the opportunity comes to make improvements that will help us then, hopefully, we’ll be able to try to do that.

“But everyone’s the same and, what happens in the Championship, is everyone wants the same players.

“We identified the players we wanted some time ago. It’s been a constant process. Obviously, when Tyrese’s injury was diagnosed to the extent it was, it put us in a more of an emergency state to find that right type of player as well.

“It is a slow process and it’s quite a frustrating process. Ultimately, and particularly for loan players, you’re never in control of that situation.

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“It’s obviously the parent club that controls that and you have to deal with the player, the agent, the club, and hopefully, they see you as a good option for the boy in terms of his development.

“But I think for this season, more than any other, there’s a shortage of players because the bigger squads in the Premier League, and because of Covid, are probably keeping more players in their own squads as opposed to possibly younger players going out on loan.

“And that’s the market where everyone’s possibly looking for that real quality which can make a difference in the second half of the season.”





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