The Sun are reporting that Stoke City are preparing a £15 million bid for Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend as Mark Hughes continues to look for reinforcements before the season starts in just over one week.
The Potters have signed just three players so far this summer and have yet to make any significant financial outlay, bringing in West Bromwich Albion captain Darren Fletcher (free transfer), Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma (season-long loan), and 18-year-old Josh Tymon from relegated Hull City (tribunal).
Hughes has insisted that the club are working hard behind the scenes to bring in new players but there is a general feeling around the Bet365 Stadium that the current first team squad still requires significant investment in order to be ready for the new campaign.
The departure of star winger Marko Arnautovic, who joined Premier League rivals West Ham United earlier in the transfer window came as a heavy blow and has left Stoke urgently requiring an experienced, creative forward. Hughes has identified former England international Townsend as possible target and is reportedly willing to offer £15m in order to tempt Crystal Palace to sell.
Townsend only arrived at Selhurst Park twelve months ago after Alan Pardew triggered the £12m release clause in his Newcastle United contract. However the winger, who has been capped 13 times by England, has struggled to find his rhythm and consistency in South London and new Crystal Palace manager Frank de Boer could be tempted to cash-in at the right price in order to raise funds for his own transfer plans.
Meanwhile former Potteries football icon Robbie Earle, who played for cross-city rivals Port Vale during the 1980s, believes that Stoke have found the answer to their goal scoring dilemma following the return of Spanish striker Joselu.
The 27-year-old was signed by The Potters in 2015 but spent last season on loan at Deportivo La Coruna after falling down the pecking order at the Bet365 Stadium.
The Spaniard was expected to be sold during the summer but has suddenly emerged as the leading candidate to spearhead Stoke’s forward line in the opening fixture against Everton after scoring four goals in two pre-season friendlies. Joselu initially began the close-season working with the under-23 squad but has netted back-to-back braces for the first team in contests against Bolton Wanders and St Pauli.
Stoke have been searching for a prolific goal scorer since their arrival in the Premier League a decade ago with Mark Hughes seemingly pinning his hopes on Saido Berahino for the forthcoming campaign. However, Earle, speaking in his column for the Stoke Sentinel, believes that Joselu’s pre-season form could earn him a starting spot when The Potters kick off their season at Goodison Park.
“Joselu’s form has given boss Mark Hughes something to think about. I’m not sure if Hughes’ plan will have been completely thrown up in the air by [his] pre-season form, but at the moment, why wouldn’t you play him in that opening game at Goodison?”
However, Joselu is not the only Stoke player looking to stake his claim for a spot as Mark Hughes’ preferred striker when the new season commences.
Peter Crouch finished the previous campaign as The Potters leading goal scorer, after netting 10 times in all competitions, and the 36-year-old is determined to prove that he is still a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League. The former England star insists that there are no doubts about his fitness, sharpness or ability to score goals in the top tier of English football and, speaking to the Stoke Sentinel, he explained:
“It was nice to score 10 goals last season because at the start of every season I tend to get written off. I believe in myself and I believe that I should be starting games … given a run of games I think that I can score goals. I can compete for 90 minutes no problem whatsoever and if we play a certain way then I’m always going to be a threat.”