What now for Tom Ince and Jack Butland after being left out at Wolves?



Michael O’Neill gives comprehensive answers to questions, as has been evidenced in 10 months of interviews since he took over at Stoke City.

But his response to one slipped in at the end of his post-match press conference at Molineux last night was just six telling words.

Where were Tom Ince and Jack Butland? “I can only pick 11 players.”

Ince and Butland, both unused subs as Stoke drew their Championship opener at Millwall last weekend, had both been expected to feature as the club turned its attention to the Carabao Cup.

Ince had given a glimpse of what he can offer with a star turn in a pre-season friendly against Leeds.

O’Neill has been asked regularly about Butland over the last few weeks, with no bids still forthcoming but his future very much on the agenda, and has always praised his attitude in and out of training.

They not only were not in the 11 but they weren’t on the bench. Maybe that would have been even more damning.

For your latest Stoke City news sign up to our newsletter with your email in the box at the top of the page – or click here

What is happening in the privacy behind the scenes at Clayton Wood may or may not emerge over the next few days, weeks or years.

But it is clear that neither senior man – and who would have imagined it two years ago? – has any immediate role in the first team plans at Stoke City.

Adam Davies has seized his long-awaited moment since getting the gloves when Butland was suffering a bad back in mid-July. His record since is very impressive and it has been remarkable to see his confidence and stature after spending so much of his first season stuck on the sidelines.

He has kept five clean sheets in those seven appearances, including three in a row at the start of this term.

Yes, he has been well protected behind a back three but he has always stayed alert and consistently produced big moments at key times. There have been a couple of excellent one-on-one saves, a couple of fine dives for the camera and, like late on last night, a calming piece of keeping to claw out a late cross and help Stoke over the line.

His number two at Molineux was Blondy Nna Noukeu, who was called up for the Cameroon senior squad this week. It would be a big decision or show of faith for O’Neill to keep him in that role if Butland does leave before deadline day.

Butland, who had been such a great ambassador for the club following the death of Gordon Banks and went out of his way during lockdown in particular to try to do his best for supporters, clearly needs a fresh start.

Ince’s chances of featuring any time soon seem slim.

O’Neill isn’t playing with wingers at the moment and how often he reverts to Plan B – or is it Plan A? – remains to be seen. Ince’s problem is that even when that happens, there is Jacob Brown now too, as well as Tyrese Campbell.

Yet the plain-speaking 28-year-old would still get in almost every Championship team and, surely, he can still be a leading player in this division if he can rediscover form and belief.

Who can afford him will be interesting as we head towards deadline day but there is no point in the former Blackpool and Derby forward hanging around to be a well-paid supporter.





Source link

Leave a Reply

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