Michael O’Neill has hinted that Stoke City are looking in the loan market for a new striker as he continues to try to bolster his squad this month.
O’Neill has already brought in three loanees – left-back Rhys Norrington-Davies and wingers Jack Clarke and Rabbi Matondo – and has just over two weeks to continue shopping.
The hunt for a centre-forward has been made more urgent due to injuries to Steven Fletcher and Lee Gregory, while Tyrese Campbell – who had been shining as an inside right – is out for the season.
But it will not be simple, especially due to the EFL’s financial rules.
There have been links with Southampton’s Michael Obafemi, who will now stay put due to injury, and Keinan Davis, who won’t be leaving Aston Villa unless they bring in new blood themselves.
Other Premier League teams are keeping hold of younger forwards who might normally be available due to the unpredictability of what is around the corner with Covid and increased injury risk in a congested season.
O’Neill said: “Everyone is looking for a striker and I think in this window the opportunities, particularly in that position, are pretty limited.
“We can’t, for example, go out and spend £5m on a striker. More likely it will be someone coming in on loan.
“We will have to see what options are available and at this minute in time the options are very limited in that arrangement.
“We also have to be mindful of the players we have in the building. We can’t just continually sign players. We need some players who are on the periphery of things to possibly get the opportunity to find first team football elsewhere.
“We are continually looking. We know what areas of the team we’d still like to improve. If we’re able to do that, we’ll try to do it.
“One of the reasons I’m so pleased we’ve managed to get players in so quickly is that it gives us maximum time with the players and, secondly, we’re not stuck at the end of the window and possibly not with the players we want and take players in who maybe weren’t our first choice.
“We’ve got our first choices in the wide areas but I think possibly we’ll have to be more patient in the striker situation.”