Four Stoke youngsters looking to impress Gary Rowett in Germany
The Stoke City first team squad are currently in Germany for a six-day training sabbatical as Gary Rowett steps up his preparations for the new campaign and pre-season begins to get into full flow.
The Potters are based in Herzlake, a small village in the north of the country, where the players will be undertaking a more intensive training regime as well as participating in three friendly fixtures.
Rowett has taken 26 players to the pre-season training camp including new signings Benik Afobe, Adam Federici and Peter Etebo in addition to a host of familiar faces.
However, Robert Huth, who has been training with the club over the summer as he builds up his fitness after being released by Leicester City, is not among the travelling party.
There are also some less recognisable names joining Rowett and the first team squad in Germany including four youth team prospects that supporters may not be fully aware of.
The 17-year-old started his career with AFC Wimbledon, initially joining the club at the age of eight, and he quickly rose through the youth team ranks at Kingsmeadow. By 2017 he was training with the first team on a regular basis and was named as a substitute against Swindon Town in April that year.
Bursik is an England youth international and has been a regular feature for the under-17 team over the previous twelve months. He played six matches as the side reached the European Championship final in May and was part of the squad that won the under-17 World Cup last year, making him one of the most promising young goalkeepers in the country.
He joined Stoke in the summer of 2017 as a scholar and his performances in the academy, combined with the departure of Lee Grant and the absence of Jack Butland, have convinced Rowett to include him in the party that travelled to Germany.
The physically imposing central defender rose through the ranks at Dundee United, cementing himself as a key facet of the club’s development squad, before being promoted to the first team in 2016.
He made his debut in the Scottish Premier League against Partick Thistle before netting his first senior goal just four days later against Kilmarnock.
His rapid progress attracted the interest of a host of Premier League clubs but it was Stoke who were able to secure his signature for an undisclosed fee.
Souttar has continued to impress and develop at the Bet365 Stadium and was handed his senior debut by Mark Hughes in an EFL Cup tie against Rochdale in August 2017.
The 19-year-old spent the second half of last season on loan with Scottish Championship side Ross County in order to gain more first team experience and made a total of 13 appearances.
Stoke are currently short of central defensive options following the departures of Kevin Wimmer, Marc Muniesa and Kurt Zouma, leaving Souttar with the perfect opportunity to impress Rowett whilst in Germany.
The 18-year-old rose through the ranks with Danish Superliga side Esbjerg fB where he emerged as the club’s outstanding youth team player before completing a move to Stoke in January 2016.
Sorensen has continued to impress at the Bet365 Stadium and his rapid development whilst playing for the under-23 side led to Paul Lambert promoting him to the first team squad at the back end of last season. He was handed his full senior debut in the final match of the season against Swansea City where he played 76 minutes whilst also providing an assist.
The Danish youth international signed a new long-term contract at the start of the summer as a just reward for his progress and has been described as being one of the club’s ‘brightest prospects’.
Furthermore, Rowett has spoken positively of Sorenson and described the midfielder as having ‘all the hallmarks of being a top young player’ and having ‘as good an attitude as any young player’ that he has worked with.
Sorensen will face a difficult challenge to break into the first team squad this season with the likes of Peter Etebo, Joe Allen, Charlie Adam and Giannelli Imbula all above him in the pecking order.
However, he is certainly a player to keep an eye on for the future.
The Republic of Ireland youth international joined AFC Wimbledon at the age of eight and he subsequently rose through the academy ranks at Kingsmeadow, signing his first professional contract in February 2015.
The central defender made his Football League debut later that year and became of regular feature of the match day squad despite his youth and inexperience. He made a dozen more first team appearances over the next year and a half with his rapid development attracting the interest of a host of Championship an Premier League clubs.
Sweeney signed for Stoke in the summer of 2016 for a fee believed to be in the region of £250,000 but has yet to make his first team debut for the club.
He has spent the last eighteen months on loan with Bristol Rovers where he has made over 40 appearances and is undoubtedly looking to capitalise on the lack of central defensive cover that Rowett currently has in his first team squad.