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Stoke City

Why the loss of Bojan could break Stoke’s season

The Boot Room

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It isn’t every day that a former Barcelona star signs for Stoke City. So when Bojan Krkic joined the Potters this summer, the footballing world went into a state of shock. Could he do it on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke?

At the time, it seemed like the ultimate coup for Mark Hughes’ new look Stoke. This is a player who broke Lionel Messi’s record to become the youngest ever first-team debutant at Barca. There was so much hype surrounding Bojan at the Camp Nou; the next starlet from La Masia who was also expected to dominate the international stage.

Bojan went on to make over 160 appearances for Barca before he moved to pastures new in 2011, joining Serie A side Roma. It was here when Bojan’s promising career began to slide.

He failed to make a mark at Roma, and loan spells at AC Milan and Ajax saw a poultry return of seven goals from over 40 games. Bojan was in danger of falling into the footballing abyss, until Stoke snapped him up for a tiny fee of £1.3m last summer.

Initially, he struggled to take the Britannia Stadium by storm. It wasn’t until November that he became a regular starter, and from there Bojan never looked back. 4 goals and 1 assist followed in the next 9 games, and for the first time since his Barcalona days, Bojan looked like he was enjoying his football again.

Playing as the number 10 in a 4-2-3-1 system, Bojan is given plenty of freedom by Hughes to express himself on the pitch. He epitomises this new Stoke side we are seeing in the Premier League; after years of being berated for their physical and aggressive playing style, Stoke now play some of the best football in the division.

Hughes has got his side playing the ball out from the back, and looking to start attacks through short, sharp and intricate passing, quite the contrary to how Stoke played under Tony Pulis not too long ago.

But on Monday night in the FA Cup away at Rochdale, Stoke suffered huge blow. After putting the Potters ahead with a stunning left foot volley, Bojan was substituted before half-time and scans later revealed he had sustained a knee ligament injury and would miss the rest of the season.

Hughes has stated how gutted he is about the news, and you can see why. With 5 goals from his last 10 games in all competitions, Bojan was bang in form and offered Stoke so much in attack. The Potters had moved up to 10th place in the league table, only 7 points behind Arsenal in 6th. Some sections of the media were even backing the Linyola-born star to add to his single Spanish cap sooner rather than later.

What will be interesting now is how Stoke bounce back from this. They are still a talented side who, with Bojan, would have been challenging for a place in the Europa League come May. That doesn’t mean they still can’t achieve this, it just seems a much harder task now.

There is no doubt that Bojan has resurrected his career in Staffordshire, and what’s important for him now is to come back and start next season with a bang.

It’s easy to forget that Bojan is still only 24 years of age, so time is on his side. He has categorically answered the question of whether he can do it on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke. However, it was a cold Monday night in Rochdale that proved costly for the Catalonian wizard.

The Boot Room is a football analysis website, bringing original and creative content to the fans of the English Football League.

Stoke City

Four Stoke City youngsters who Gary Rowett could put his faith in next season

Martyn Cooke

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Gary Rowett
Photo: Getty Images

On Tuesday evening it was announced that Gary Rowett had been appointed as the new manager of Stoke City.

The 44-year-old has been tasked with building a team capable of making an immediate return to the Premier League and his first task will be to overhaul the playing squad during the summer.

Rowett will be handed a sizeable transfer kitty, which will be increased further through player sales, and the Potters will be expected to make a significant impact in the transfer market either side of the World Cup. Stoke supporters will be waiting with eager anticipation to see who their new manager attracts to the club and it is certain that a new-look team will line up for the first game of the season.

However, Stoke have a number of highly rated young players on their books and Rowett may also choose to look within the club’s academy in an attempt to provide some fresh energy and youthful exuberance.

Here, The Boot Room all highlights four young players that Rowett may look to include in his plans for the new season.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Tom Edwards

Having been born and raised in Stafford, Edwards became the first local player in almost a decade to make a first-team appearance for Stoke when he was handed his debut against Manchester City in October 2017.

The 19-year-old has been at the club since the age of eight and his undoubted potential has been no secret. The defender was voted as the under-18’s Player of the Year in both of the previous two seasons whilst playing a key role in the team’s run to the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup last year.

Edwards made seven starts for the first team over the Christmas period and emerged as Mark Hughes’ first choice right back. His performances, at a difficult time for the club, were hugely impressive and were characterised by calmness under pressure, robustness in his defensive play and overlapping runs.

The arrival of Paul Lambert in January saw Edwards return to the academy side as the Scotsman elected to place his faith and trust in experience rather than youth.

However, Edwards has already demonstrated that he is capable of playing first team football and he will be hoping that Rowett will reinstate him into first-team proceedings.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Julien Ngoy

The 20-year-old is one of Stoke’s most highly rated young forwards and has been on the periphery of the first team squad for the last two seasons.

He joined the club in the summer of 2014, electing to move to the Bet365 Stadium over a host of top-flight European clubs, and emerged as a dominant force academy football whilst also becoming a central figure for the Belgian young international sides.

Ngoy was handed his debut as a late substitute against Arsenal in December 2016 and made five further appearances over the subsequent twelve months. He spent the second half of the current campaign on loan at League One side Walsall, scoring three goals in thirteen games and helping the Saddlers to avoid relegation.

The Belgian is powerful, strong and pacey whilst also having an acute instinct in front of goal. Having already experienced the Premier League and life as a first-team regular at Walsall, now may be the time for Ngoy to make his breakthrough at Stoke.

Thibaud Verlinden  

Another Belgian youth international, Verlinden joined Stoke in the summer of 2016 having risen through the ranks at Standard Liege.

The 18-year-old is highly thought of at the Bet365 Stadium and his speed, agility and low centre of gravity combined with his technical brilliance makes him one to look out for in the future. Furthermore, the diminutive winger has already been around the periphery of the Stoke first team squad and has been named as a substitute on multiple occasions.

Verlinden has spent the current campaign on loan with FC St. Pauli but has made a minimal impact in Germany and has only made a handful of appearances for the club’s reserve team.

However, the fresh start at Stoke under the stewardship of Rowett may be just what the Belgian needs to kick-start his professional career.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Tyrese Campbell

Campbell began his football career with Manchester City’s academy but chose to turn down a professional contract with the club in the summer of 2016 in order to sign for Stoke. The Potters were ultimately ordered to pay £1.75 million for his services by a tribunal.

However, the 18-year-old has been the star of Stoke’s academy structure during the previous two years and, even at this early stage, he appears to be worth every penny of that fee.

Campbell was a prolific for the under-18’s team last season, with his goals firing the side into the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup, whilst he finished the current campaign as the top goal scorer in Premier League 2. His 18 strikes saw him shortlisted for the Premier League 2 Player of the Season award.

The 18-year-old was handed his first-team debut in February 2018 against Leicester City and subsequently made three further substitute appearances prior to the end of the campaign.

Campbell has emerged as one of the most prolific young forwards in the country and next season may be the perfect opportunity for him to make his mark in first-team football.

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Brighton and Hove Albion

Wolves at risk of losing talented youngster Cameron John

The talented teenager could leave Molineux Stadium this summer.

Josh Kerr

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Photo: Getty Images

Talented youngster Cameron John is still yet to make his Wolverhampton Wanderers debut and the youngster is reportedly growing frustrated with his lack of game-time.

According to the Daily Mail (live transfer blog, 23/05/2018 10.50am), John is in the last year of his contract with the Midland’s side and the Premier League new boys are willing to listen to offers.

Despite not making a senior appearance at the Molineux Stadium, the 18-year-old is still hot property and a number of clubs are preparing to swoop for him.

A talented centre-back, who can also play on the left side of defence, John has impressed Scott Sellars’ in his Under-23 side over the past season and he may be rewarded with a move this summer that will see him rewarded with greater senior opportunities.

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Brighton, Stoke City and Norwich City are all showing an interest in the Wolves’ young centre-back and could make an imminent swoop.

The Championship would suit John more than the Premier League and Brighton have also recently signed Leon Balogun from Bundesliga club Mainz, meaning the south coast side may not see John as a potential starter, but rather an addition to strengthen their squad.

Also, Wolves are close to announcing Willy Boly on a permanent deal, which could be a message to John that he is not in manager Nuno’s long-term plans. Therefore, a move to Gary Rowett’s Stoke or Daniel Farke’s Norwich seems most likely.

It would be a surprising move for Wolves to allow one of their best talents to leave the club. However, with heavy summer investments imminent, the club are more likely to be focused on bringing ready-made Premier League players to the Midlands, which could mean the youngster is better-suited finding first-team football elsewhere.

At only 18 years of age, John undoubtedly has a bright future and the growing interest of teams only showcases the raw talent that he possesses. He is a talented youngster, but he finds himself at a crossroads in his career, and it will be interesting to see what will follow with his next move.

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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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