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Stoke City

Stoke round-up: Palace winger targeted; Joselu’s form praised; 36-year-old demands game time

Martyn Cooke

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Stoke

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.”

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

Stoke City

Three key areas for Gary Rowett to address at Stoke City over the summer

Martyn Cooke

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On Tuesday evening Stoke City announced that Gary Rowett had been appointed as their new manager.

The 44-year-old replaces Paul Lambert, who departed the club following relegation from the Premier League, and now faces the task of building a team capable of making an immediate return to the top-flight.

Rowett led Derby County to the Championship play-offs this season, ultimately losing out to Fulham, and is regarded as one of the brightest, young British managers in the country. Stoke were previously linked with the former Burton Albion and Birmingham City manager in January and have reportedly paid around £2 million in compensation to secure his services.

However, whilst the Potters may possess a superior budget to many of their counterparts in the Championship an immediate return to the Premier League is certainly not guaranteed. The playing squad requires a dramatic overhaul during the summer and the second tier of English football is notoriously unpredictable and competitive.

Here, The Boot Room highlights three key areas that Rowett must address in order to revive Stoke’s fortunes.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Convince big-name players to stay

When a club is relegated from the Premier League they normally undergo a rapid fire sale of their best players in order to reduce the wage bill and balance the books.

However, that is not necessarily the case with Stoke. The Potters are in a solid financial position and are funded by Peter Coates, owner of online betting company Bet365, who is a local entrepreneur and has the club’s best intentions at heart.

The first task for Rowett will be to try and convince some of Stoke’s star assets to remain at the Bet365 Stadium and lead a promotion challenge.

Whilst figures such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Jack Butland are almost certainly likely to depart the club during the summer, there are others that might be tempted to stay put.

Joe Allen and Moritz Bauer have already tentatively suggested that they might be willing to remain whilst Rowett should also focus on keeping hold of other key figures such as Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi and Badou Ndiaye.

Stoke will be more capable of building a squad capable of challenging for promotion if Rowett can convince some of the key figures in the squad to stay.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Get things right in the transfer market

One key factor in Stoke’s downfall over the previous two years has been the club’s horrendous transfer policy.

It is amazing to think that the Potters have spent £12 million on Saido Berahino, who has yet to score a goal for the club, £18 million on Kevin Wimmer, who was demoted to the under-23 squad for much of the season, and a further £18.3  million on Giannelli Imbula, who spent the year on loan in France.

Quite simply, Rowett cannot afford to make similar, costly mistakes as he overhauls the team during the summer.

The club need to move away from so-called ‘big name’ players who have little affection for the club, such as Jese Rodriguez, and ageing stalwarts that are entering the twilight of their careers, such as Darren Fletcher. Stoke need to build a young, hungry and dynamic team that are motivated, driven and still have everything to prove.

However, that is certainly easier said than done.

Rowett will be handed a significant transfer budget, which will be further increased by players sales, to build a team capable of securing promotion and he needs to ensure that the money is spent much more wisely than it has been in the recent past.

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Re-discover Stoke’s identity

Over the previous two years Stoke have gradually lost their idiosyncratic identity – much to the detriment of the club. The Potters have always been at their best when they have a clear identity, philosophy and direction.

Under Tony Pulis, Stoke were characterised as a hard working, well organised team that employed a direct style of football that relied on transferring the ball into the opponents eighteen yard box as often as possible. It was not to everyone’s taste, but it was effective and supporters knew exactly what they were going to get.

Mark Hughes altered that identity and built a team that was characterised by foreign flair, technical brilliance and a possession-based style of play. Three consecutive top half finishes followed and the media referred to the club as ‘Stoke-a-lona’ in reference to the team’s new style of play.

It was when Hughes began to move away from that definitive identity that the Potters lost all sense of direction.

It is vital that Rowett implements his own footballing philosophy and creates a clear, definitive identity that the Stoke supporters can unite behind. The philosophies of Pulis and Hughes probably sit at extreme, contrasting ends of the spectrum and the 44-year-old may be aiming to find the middle ground that balances hard work, discipline and creativity.

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Derby County

Sam Winnall to Stoke looks inevitable after Gary Rowett arrival

Josh Kerr

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Sam Winnall
Photo: Getty Images

Gary Rowett’s move to Stoke City from Derby County has added further fuel to the fire regarding Sam Winnall’s future and a potential move to Staffordshire for the new season.

The two have previously been together during their time at Burton Albion, and Rowett opted to bring the 27-year-old to Pride Park on a loan deal this season.

Winnall scored four goals in 16 Championship games for Sheffield Wednesday after arriving at Hillsborough in January 2017 from local rivals Barnsley.

He was underwhelming for the Owls initially and hence the club decided to loan him to his former manager.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Nonetheless, he has enjoyed some success at Derby this season, winning the club’s Goal of the Season award for his memorable strike against Ipswich Town back in December.

Injury has restricted Winnall to just six Championship starts but despite his time spent on the sidelines, the fans have enjoyed the Englishman’s time at Pride Park and are crying out for him to stay.

Nonetheless, Rowett’s move to Stoke was the icing on the cake for Wednesday supporters and unsurprisingly talk of a switch to the Bet365 Stadium has surfaced on social media.

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Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace should resist the signing of Stoke midfielder Joe Allen

Max Cohen

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Joe Allen
Photo: Getty Images

Reports this week in The Guardian suggested that Crystal Palace have registered interest in signing Joe Allen following Stoke City’s relegation.

Further reports in The Sun claimed the Potters are seeking £20 million for the Welsh international, a hefty price tag that should deter Palace, as they already have sufficient options in the centre of midfield.

During the 2017/18 campaign, Yohan Cabaye, Luka Milivojevic, and James McArthur have all been excellent for the south Londoners.

Between the three, the midfielders have contributed 15 goals and three assists in the Premier League- impressive numbers considering Palace’s goal-shy start to the season under Frank de Boer.

In addition, Chelsea loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek was a commanding presence in midfield at Selhurst Park. Even though injury hampered his year, the Englishman left his mark at Palace and should be targeted for a permanent deal this year.

(during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield on April 28, 2018 in Liverpool, England.

It is clear that the Eagles have a wealth of options in the centre of the park, and their midfield repertoire was given a boost this week when the Evening Standard reported the club was confident that Cabaye would sign a new contract this summer.

With the influential Frenchman securing his future at Selhurst Park, there is simply no need for the services of Joe Allen in SE25.

Add in the Welshman’s exorbitant £20 million price-tag (which is £7 million more than Palace paid for Cabaye in 2015), it would be a foolish decision for Roy Hodgson to buy the midfielder.

Crystal Palace should resist the urge to splurge for Joe Allen, as money would be best spent on purchasing a top-class striker rather than bolstering an already-impressive midfield.

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