The fallout from Saido Berahino’s transfer to Stoke City has continued this week after Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross both publicly suggested that West Bromwich Albion were responsible for leaking details of the striker’s suspension for a positive drug test to the media.
The 23-year-old secured a £12 million move to The Potters in January ending eighteen months of controversy surrounding his desire to leave The Hawthorns in which his attitude, mentality and fitness levels were criticised by Tony Pulis. However, it has emerged that the striker’s omission from the West Brom first team was due to him being suspended for eight weeks by the Football Association after a random drugs test in September found traces of a recreational drug in his system, as reported recently by the Mirror.
The FA do not publically release details relating to incidences in which a player that fails a drugs test due to recreational substance use as it is not considered a breach of World Anti-Doping Agency regulations. Instead, English football’s governing body suggests that when such circumstances arise it is in the best interests of the player’s rehabilitation that all details remain confidential.
However, two days before Stoke City were due to play West Brom information regarding Berahino’s suspension and failed drugs test emerged in the mainstream media. Mark Hughes raised questions about the timing of the story in his post-match press conference whilst club captain Ryan Shawcross told the Telegraph:
“I was disappointed with the stories [about Berahino’s suspension] coming out the day before, which were obviously no coincidence. Someone from West Brom’s side must have been speaking to the papers and I was very disappointed with that. I didn’t think it was needed.”
Stoke have indicated that they believe West Brom were responsible for leaking information regarding Berahino’s suspension to the press in an attempt to unsettled the striker prior to his return to The Hawthorns on Saturday. The 23-year-old was introduced in the second half as a substitute but could not prevent The Potters suffering a one-goal defeat.
The January transfer window may only have been closed for one week but the English press are already circulating reports relating to possible deals that may come to fruition in the summer.
The Sun are reporting that Stoke City are among a number of Premier League clubs that are interested in signing Hull City defender Andrew Robertson.
The 22-year-old left-back was set to join Burnley on deadline day but saw the move break down due to new Hull manager Marco Silva being unable to find a suitable replacement in time. However, the Scottish international intends to quit the KCOM Stadium in May regardless of whether The Tigers secure survival or not and that will spark a £10 million race to secure his signature.
Burnley will resume their interest in the summer and Liverpool are also monitoring developments, but Mark Hughes is thought to be a keen admirer and wants to bring Robertson to North Staffordshire. Stoke are currently short of defensive options with only six first team defenders currently available for selection and Dutchman Erik Pieters the only natural left-back in the squad.
Robertson would provide an impetus of youth in an aging squad and already has a significant amount of experience having featured consistently in the Premier League for Hull and in international football for Scotland.
Finally, Stoke City chairman Peter Coates believes that he is finally starting to see the benefits of almost a decade of investment in the club’s academy structure following the recent emergence of Julien Ngoy as a genuine first team player.
Coates has made it clear in the past that he is keen for The Potters to develop their own talent rather than continuously spend large transfer fees every transfer window and he has spent significant amounts of money on improving the club’s academy.
The chairman is hoping that Julien Ngoy will be the first of many young players to break into the first team in the next couple of years after the Belgium Youth international has emerged as a genuine part of Mark Hughes plans this season. The academy graduate has made five successive appearances for the Premier League side, each coming as a substitute, and Coates told the Staffordshire Sentinel that he was encouraged by the 19-year-olds recent breakthrough.
“It has certainly been encouraging to see. It’s a start and something we need to build upon. If we can get a decent number of young players through like that, it will be good for the balance of the squad and good for the club”.
Tom Edwards and Joel Taylor, two other academy graduates, have recently featured on the bench in recent months for the first team whilst Ollie Shenton made his debut for the senior side under Hughes. Stoke have also loaned out six of their promising young players so that they can accumulate experience of first team football and Coates is hoping that more of the club’s promising youngsters will eventually feature in the Premier League.
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