Areas to strengthen...
The departure of Ed De Goey means Tony Pulis will be looking for cover to Steve Simonsen, who has made the number one jersey his own since joining two years ago. Robert Duggan recently featured in the friendly game against Newcastle Town, however Pulis is unlikely to gamble on the 19 year old Irishman, who might favour a Ben Foster like loan deal to a lower league team.
Carl Hoekfens, who has pledged his immediate future to Stoke, is likely to start at right-back, and with Lewis Buxton and Andy Wilkinson as back-up, this isn`t a problem position.
The centre-half spots are likely to be filled by Pulis signings Michael Duberry and Clint Hill, who will face a head to head battle for the captaincy. Marlon Broomes is the only experienced back-up and City`s Welsh manager may be tempted to sign another centre-half before the August transfer window closes.
Left-back remains a part of the team that needs attention however Carl Dickinson and Andy Wilkinson filled in there towards the end of last season very well. Dickinson has the chance to make the position his own in the ensuing weeks and months.
If Kevin Harper can regain fitness he will challenge Luke Chadwick for the right-midfield role, and Pulis may prefer Harper`s more direct approach. City can`t be reliant on Harper however, and Pulis may be tempted to delve into the market here.
Dave Brammer, John Eustace and Darel Russell are the main three in the middle, especially with Karl Henry`s future in doubt. There are question marks over whether Russell and Brammer are good enough, and serious question marks remain over Eustace`s fitness. Wigan midfielder Damien Francis has rejected the chance to Pulis for a second time, and Pulis will no doubt be exploring other avenues in the weakest part of the team.
Peter Sweeney and Peter Kopteff have been unconvincing since their arrivals, however should be judged on a full pre-season. Pulis may be tempted by a move for Blackburn`s Paul Gallagher, who fitted in well on the left-side last season to fill this area of the team.
Upfront, fans may see Sidibe and Pericard as too similar to partner each other. Pulis has been linked with two strikers, one experienced and one young. West Ham`s Bobby Zamora may be in Pulis` thoughts, however Alan Pardew has stated the Londoner is not for sale. The experienced striker could be Shefki Kuqi, also from Blackburn, or former Potters player-of-the-season Ade Akinbiyi, who is currently at promoted Sheffield United. Nathan Blake is on trial, however the 34 year old Welsh International would be a huge risk. Adam Rooney will also be hoping for a place in Pulis` frontline, and his cause was aided by a hat-trick on the last day of the season against Brighton.
Will this be Stoke`s line-up for the first day of the new season? Have you say on the forum.
Hoefkens, Duberry, Hill, Dickinson
Chadwick, Russell, Eustace, Gallagher
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