Writer: Charlie Bennett
Date:Friday June 19 2009
We have now reached that time of year again, the football has finished but the Transfer Market is set to re-open and so, inevitably, rumours and speculation dominate the back pages.
Stoke, as we all know, are very quiet and unresponsive when asked about who they are looking at. I suppose that`s just the Tony Pulis way, but until anything is set in stone, all we can do is speculate with everyone else.
There are always some strange and totally bizarre rumours but admittedly it all adds to the fun. Unlikely stories such as Paul Scholes arriving in the Potteries as a player-coach, and in the opposite direction keeper Thomas Sorensen is a reported target for Bayern Munich are some examples. Tommy is a very skilful and extremely reliable goalkeeper, but Bayern Munich! Come on.
This morning, according to the Daily Mail, Stoke are set to bid in excess of 1 million pounds for Newcastle full-back Habib Beye. Beye will definitely be looking for a new club after the Magpies suffered relegation last season and according to reports Pulis has been tracking him for a few months.
It is thought that full-backs are very high on the clubs agenda as back-up for Andy Wilkinson is essential, especially after Stoke opted against battling with Fulham for the services of Stephen Kelly, we all thought that was one player arriving permanently. Kelly spent the last 3 months on loan at the Brit but struggled to break into the team on a regular basis and, although Pulis is a fan, he has decided to stick by his first choice in Wilkinson.
Stoke`s other first choice full-back Danny Higginbotham, who missed the back end of the season through injury, has admitted that he would rather play more centrally, a position he regards as his best. That leaves the club searching for a potential new left-back as you have to feel that Carl Dickinson isn`t quiet up to premier league standard and Pulis would rather keep Danny Pugh as back up to the first team, considering he can play in a whole range of positions. Gregory Vignal is one the club are linked with, known best for his Liverpool days the 27 year old can now be picked up for free as his contract with Lens has expired but Portuguese outfit FC Porto are also interested.
With Habib Beye looking possible so does his North-east neighbour Dean Whitehead. Whitehead, another player the club have been tracking over the last season, is reportedly looking for a move despite being Sunderland club captain. The central midfielder almost moved to Hull in January and now that Sunderland have come into some money recently, he could be picked up for around 1.5 million pounds.
Stoke`s midfield is strong in numbers but a touch more quality is needed. Glenn Whelan became one of Stoke`s most influential players during the penultimate few months and his place in the team is surely guaranteed. On the other hand his partner, Rory Delap, possesses one of the most potent weapons in world football but he turns 33 in a few weeks and his performances were noticeably dropping during the last few games.
There are however, many more options Stoke have at their disposal. Salif Diao has been offered a new 1 year contract and is still unsure about staying or leaving for Italy, I`m not sure if many fans would miss him if he did decide to move across Europe. Amdy Faye on the other hand did decide to stay and is contracted to the end of next season, the former Portsmouth man gave an impressive display of himself during the season but can only offer Stoke one thing and that`s a tough tackling defensive minded player who many think held back the club during the season, calling him too negative.
There are plenty of rumours about incomings but there are sure to be some outgoings considering Stoke have one of the largest squads in the division.
Seyi Olofinjana may fit into that bracket, signed for 3 million pounds from Wolves he impressed for the first few months before being dropped during the horrendous 5-0 drubbing at Old Trafford back in November. Seyi is widely tipped to leave the club this summer and if he does we will always remember his two goals he scored in front of the Boothern. His first a special volley from the edge of the area in front of live cameras against a Everton side who were then leading 2-0. His second, not as good but certainly more crucial, a 68th minute bundle over the line in what proved to be the winning goal against Arsenal.
Another player looking to leave is Michael Tonge. Signed for 2.5 million on deadline day last August he was reduced to only one league start back in September. Tonge is a attacking minded player who many Potters fans believe he should have been given more of a chance in the red and white shirt after impressing during several subs appearances.
There are still questions over the future of Dave Kitson, his loan spell at Reading proved unsuccessful as they didn`t earn the promotion that would have seen Stoke receive 4.7 million of the 5.5 million spent on him. Personally I hope to see him back next season with Stoke to finally score that elusive first goal and then perhaps play a much bigger role in the first team.
Other players rumoured to leave include club captain Andy Griffin who is believed to have had disagreements with boss Pulis. Andrew Davies, remember him, may also leave. Signed for around 1.3 million pounds injury rued much of his season and there are many championship clubs ready to take a gamble.
Plenty of activity looks likely then, but as usual with Stoke all we can do is wait.
Date:Friday June 19 2009
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