Writer: Charlie Bennett
Date:Wednesday June 24 2009
The major factor that separated Stoke from fellow newcomers Hull and West Brom over the previous campaign was the defence. An area of the pitch where both sides had difficulties was just the position that Stoke excelled as they conceded 55 goals throughout all 38 games, a lot less than both Hull and West Brom.
Now after that great season, Stoke will be looking to reduce squad numbers and to get rid of any dead wood and the defence looks the area where most will leave from as a total of 11 different defenders were used.
Abdoulaye Faye and Ryan Shawcross have both been immense over the last season with the former picking up the 'player of the year' award. But another pair of Potters' centre-backs are considering their futures. It hasn't quite worked out for Ibrahima Sonko. The £2m signing from Reading has made only seven starts for the Potters in the league and is reportedly unhappy at the limited opportunities. Newly promoted Birmingham are prepared to pay back that 2 mil but it remains to be seen if Pulis will do business with a rival club.
Leon Cort is another who is likely to leave. During the promotion season of two years ago Cort was instrumental as he contributed to the score at both ends with his defensive experience and his attacking threat. Eleven starts last season though maybe enough to turn him away to consider regular first team football as he has dropped to fourth in the pecking order.
The infamous clash between striker Ricardo Fuller and captain Andy Griffin was one of the lowest points in the club's recent history as the big Jamaican slapped Griffin around the face. The long term affect has seen Griffin lose his place and unlikely to regain it and he is almost guaranteed to leave. Griff's Premier League days are surely behind him now and at the age of 30 he isn't getting any younger so a trip back to Tyneside to link up with former club, Newcastle looks on the cards as they're in need of some valuable experience in defence.
Two more full-backs are perhaps on the way out, Andrew Davies has been one of the season's biggest flops. Signed for £1.3 million he has made only two league appearances, both coming off the bench. Loaned out to Norwich towards the back end of the season a Championship move beckons, with both QPR and Coventry rumoured to be having a look.
Carl Dickinson, the left footed version of Andy Wilkinson, is another who may leave the Potteries. Limited opportunities behind both Danny Higginbotham and Danny Pugh have seen the young Potter restricted to few first team spots. But a move is less likely than any others as he loves playing for his boyhood club.
In other news, Stoke may be going for an audacious bid for Michael Owen. The out of contract striker is being chased by several clubs including Hull but Pulis has made it no secret that he would love to see Owen in the red and white.
Do you agree? Have you say below...
Date:Wednesday June 24 2009
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