Players in the team and players out of Michael O’Neill’s team were also amongst the topics discussed, plus the likely points target Stoke will have to surpass to maintain their Championship status.
Here’s a selection of the topics discussed…
When does the patience finally snap with Tom Ince (Steve, Stoke)
MS: There’s no doubt Ince has benefited from the injuries to McClean and Verlinden, Steve, and we will presumably see what the manager really thinks of him in the summer.
He was bought to try and win promotion and I’ve always thought he is a better player in a better team, not so good when it comes to dragging you out of the mire.
We could certainly have done with him sticking away either of the two chances to fall to him on Saturday.
I live in hope that he will have at least one afternoon where his magic wins three vital points for Stoke between now and the end of the season.
What is the story with Ngoy? Looking at how poor Tom Ince has been and the lack of pace out wide, I’m baffled how he hasn’t had any opportunity? (CJ, Stoke)
MS: He certainly looked lively during that little cameo at Brentford in the FA Cup, but that was two months ago now and it looks like he’s missed the boat.
Not sure whether that’s because he just hasn’t cut it well enough in training, or the arrival of Tashan Oakley-Boothe has deterred the manager from having too many unproven youngsters on the bench.
Martin, what are the chances, do you think, of us ever seeing a Stoke CB pairing of Nathan Collins and Harry Souttar? (Adam, Alsager)
MS: Think you would need relegation to see that in the short-term Adam, but in the long-term you never know.
O’Neill does like Collins and his chance will surely come next season, Championship or League One, but he might need more persuasion over Souttar.
The big Scot is doing well enough at Fleetwood, though, and it will be interesting to see if they are in any kind of position to make an offer in the summer and whether Souttar and/or Stoke would accept.
Will there be a squad overhaul in the summer regardless of which league we find ourselves in? (Tim, Potteries)
MS: We can assume there will be no new contracts for Ward and Diouf, maybe Federici too, but after that Stoke are once again dependent on the interest in their existing squad Tim.
This has been a massive problem over the past couple of years and you don’t see that situation changing greatly between now and the end of the season.
You just hope the club isn’t forced into selling one of its brighter young stars because they are the only ones attracting any kind of serious interest.
The future of this club, and certainly the spine of the team, has to start being built around the likes of Collins and Campbell if Stoke are to re-capture anything like the spirit (DNA if you like) that was tossed to the winds.
If the club leans too heavily on lower-league journeymen then the consequences are obvious.
I think out of last 10 games 3 wins and a draw will keep us up, do you agree and do you think its achievable? (Barry Sherratt, Blackpool)
MS: So you’re saying 49 points would be enough Barry.
You might well be right, but that would be cutting it fine in such a condensed division this season, so I don’t think I’d accept that scenario if you offered it now.
Offer 51 points and we can do business.
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Surely somebody at Stoke needs to be taking a long look at themselves in the mirror after ending Hogan’s loan. The man can’t stop scoring since leaving Stoke, which must say more about our deficiencies as at attacking team than his abilities as a player. (Mick, Fenton)
Yep, just checked Mick, it’s six goals in seven appearances for Blues.
But who, honestly, could have foreseen that when he left Stoke?
He looked out of sorts and out of condition by the end of his time here, but something has stoked his fires and you have to say it’s painful to watch.
The decision to let him go was understandable, but as you say, perhaps how he was treated while here needs assessing.
Let’s hope he doesn’t turn an ankle or something before he’s due here on Easter Monday.
Is O’Neill guilty of trying to be too defensive with the Collins for Ince sub? I feel O’Neill’s tactics should be questioned. (Rob, Tean)
It’s one of those Rob, if Stoke win 1-0 he’s spot on, but because it finishes 1-1 people are bound to ask the question you have.
O’Neill’s default position previously has been to throw Collins on, even at home, and usually with the right end result.
If Stoke were in the top half of the table that tactic would be more questionable, but given where they are (and how they’ve been this season) I think my gut instinct would be to defend what we have by throwing on an extra body in the last 10 minutes.
Martin, what are your predictions for the next 5 games? Neck on the block? (John, Worcester)
MS: Thanks John, really nice one that!
Let’s go for:
Stoke 2, Hull 0
Reading 2, Stoke 1
Stoke 1, Middlesbrough 0
Wigan 0, Stoke 0
Stoke 1, Barnsley 1
Who are your three teams to get relegated? (Chris, Basford)
MS: Luton, Barnsley and……… this week the answer is….. Hull