Tyrese Campbell is wound up and ready to go as Stoke City hit the first of the last 10 games of their relegation campaign against fellow strugglers Hull City tomorrow afternoon.
But he adds that the 20 year-old has to be handled carefully for the long-term good of his career – and defends the decision to rest him after the Blackburn draw.
“To ask him to play three games-in-a-week is a lot,” O’Neill stressed.
“What Tyrese has to get is a little bit battle-hardened and that comes with games, but that doesn’t mean we just flog him.
“So we look at games and think is Tyrese an option? Is he going to be a better option for us in the last 30 minutes or in the first 60? It’s about managing that.
“He’s a positive boy and he understands it.
“I felt from about half-time on in the Blackburn game he looked a bit leggy. I think the decision to play Sam Vokes (at Luton) was the right one because we wanted a bit more physicality.
“Those are all factors that come into the equation and at the end of the day we took Tyrese out and put an international striker in.”
He cautioned against too much expectation on the young striker’s shoulders – especially during such a fraught period for the club.
“You shouldn’t necessarily think that Tyrese has the answers all the time, that would be unfair of us.
“He’s a young player developing all the time. He gives us something different from the others with that threat in behind and he‘s an excellent finisher.
“But between now and the end of the season, Lee Gregory, Sam, Tyrese, Mame (Diouf) if required, Nick Powell if he plays `number 10’ are all going to be important in the attacking threat we pose.”