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O'Neill continues steadying the Stoke ship despite FFP, injuries - Interview
Thursday, 29th Apr 2021 16:31 by Clive Whittingham

Stoke, increasingly hamstrung by FFP problems, have had a steadying season under Michael O'Neill despite a long injury list. We spoke to Harvey Todd from Six Towns Sport.

How would you assess Stoke’s season overall?

I’m happy with Stoke’s season overall. A year of stability, especially given the ongoing pandemic and the club’s FFP troubles, being in and around the top half isn’t bad at all. When Tyrese Campbell got injured in December we were in a playoff position, it’s been disappointing seeing us slide down the league but the positive start to the season gives me confidence looking ahead to next season.

Stoke’s league results so far…
Millwall 0-0 Stoke
Stoke 0-2 Bristol City Wells 45, Weimann 89
Preston 0-1 Stoke Gregory 39
Stoke 1-1 Birmingham Powell 86 – Dean 65
Luton 0-2 Stoke Fletcher 46, Powell 55
Stoke 2-2 Barnsley Campbell 44, Smith 48 – Simoes 18, Frieser 45
Stoke 3-2 Brentford Fletcher 9, McClean 35, Campbell 59 – Forss 70, 90
Swansea 2-0 Stoke Fulton 30, Palmer 87
Stoke 1-0 Rotherham McClean 27
Watford 3-2 Stoke Cleverley 28, Pedro pen 61, Sarr 90 – Fletcher 2, Powell 81
Reading 0-3 Stoke Campbell 23, Fletcher 35, Brown 90
Stoke 4-3 Huddersfield Campbell 31, 33, Stearman og 45, Clucas 57 – Eiting 24, Mbenza 40, Sarr 60
Stoke 2-3 Norwich Campbell 69, Collins 79 – Buendia 18, Pukki 27, 57
Sheff Wed 0-0 Stoke
Wycombe 0-1 Stoke Powell 72
Stoke 1-0 Middlesbrough Collins 19
Stoke 1-2 Cardiff Morrison og 25 – Glatzel 66, Morrison 76
Derby 0-0 Stoke
QPR 0-0 Stoke
Stoke 1-0 Blackburn Powell 7
Coventry 0-0 Stoke
Stoke 1-1 Forest Thompson 18 – Chester og 65
Stoke 0-1 Bournemouth Stanislas 79
Blackburn 1-1 Stoke Buckley 76 – Powell 38
Rotherham 3-3 Stoke Crooks 31, 67, Smith 51 – MacDonald og 14, Batth 62, Powell 75
Stoke 1-2 Watford Fletcher 83 – Deeney pen 64, Sarr 68
Huddersfield 1-1 Stoke Pipa 5 – Fletcher 24
Stoke 0-0 Reading
Norwich 4-1 Stoke Cantwell 15, Pukki 44, pen 80, Buendia 64 – Powell 61
Stoke 1-0 Sheff Wed Fletcher 83
Stoke 3-0 Luton Powell 20, 63, Fletcher 78
Barnsley 2-0 Stoke Styles 9, Dike 90
Brentford 2-1 Stoke Janelt 56, Toney 79 – Brown 1
Stoke 1-2 Swansea Powell 6 – Roberts 19, Ayew pen 90
Stoke 2-0 Wycombe Norrington-Davis 64, Souttar 69
Middlesbrough 3-0 Stoke Hall 21, McNari 40, Mendez-Laing 88
Cardiff 0-0 Stoke
Stoke 1-0 Derby Brown 74
Bristol City 0-2 Stoke Powell 25, Fletcher 62
Stoke 1-2 Millwall Brown 41 – Wallace 35, Bennett 71
Birmingham 2-0 Stoke Jutkiewicz 42, 53
Stoke 0-0 Preston
Stoke 2-3 Coventry Brown 58, Clucas 78 – Walker 44, Biamou 68, Gyokeres 78
Forest 1-1 Stoke Grabban 50 – Matondo 27

Seem to have suffered more than most with injuries, has that been the main thing preventing further progress on the table or is there more to it?

100%. We were hit heavy with injuries over the Christmas period with over 12 players unavailable. Had our luck with injuries not been so bad, I do think we’d be in and around the playoff positions right now.

Opinion on how Michael O’Neill is doing for you guys?

Overall I’m happy with how O’Neill is doing. There’s no doubt he worked absolute miracles last season by keeping us in the Championship. On a couple of occasions his tactics can be a bit too negative but he can’t do much more given the injury situation and being restricted on the transfer front due to FFP.

What is the FFP situation at Stoke now?

We bought quite a few players in our final years of the PL era/early C’ship years (Imbula, Wimmer, Bauer, N’Diaye, Etebo, Berahino, Afobe to name a few) on long, big wage contracts and’ve not been able to move them on and have been out on loan around the world running their contracts down. Currently we’re effectively restricted to the loan market and free transfers to cut transfer costs.

Summer Ins >>> Jacob Brown, 22, RW, Barnsley, £1.98m >>> Morgan Fox, 26, LB, Sheff Wed, Free >>> James Chester, 31, CB, Villa, Free >>> Steven Fletcher, 33, CF, Sheff Wed, Free >>> John Obi Mikel, 33, DM, Unattached, Free >>> Angus Gunn, 25, GK, Southampton, Loan

Summer Outs >>> Jack Butland, 28, GK, Palace, £1m >>> Adam Federici, 35, GK, Macarthur (Australia), Free >>> Mame Diouf, 32, CF, Hatayspor (Turkey), Free >>> Stephen Ward, 34, LB, Ipswich, Free >>> Ryan Woods, 26, DM, Millwall, Loan >>> Josef Bursik, 20, GK, Doncaster, Loan >>> Peter Etebo, 25, CM, Galatasary, Loan >>> Benik Afobe, 28, CF, Trabzonspor, Loan >>> Bruno Martins Indi, 29, DF, Alkmaar, Loan >>> Babou Ndiaye, 30, CM, Fatih Karagumruk, Loan >>> Tom Edwards, 22, DF, Fleetwood, Loan

Winter Ins >>> Alfie Doughty, 21, LM, Charlton, Undisclosed >>> Rhys Norrington-Davies, 21, LB, Sheff Utd, Loan >>> Rabbi Matondo, 20, CF, Schalke, Loan >>> Jack Clarke, 20, RW, Spurs, Loan

Winter Outs >>> Thibaud Verlinden, 21, MF, Fortuna Sittard, Undisclosed >>> Josef Bursik, 20, GK, Peterborough, Loan >>> Tom Ince, 29, RW, Luton, Loan >>> Ryan Shawcross, 33, CB, Inter Miami, Free >>> Kevin Wimmer, 28, DF, Karlsruhe, Loan >>> Tom Edwards 22, DF, New York Red Bulls, Loan >>> Liam Lindsay 25, CB, Preston, Loan >>> Lee Gregory, 32, CF, Derby, Loan

Player of the season candidates?

It has to be Nick Powell. Without his goals and assists since Campbell’s injury have been key for keeping us away from the relegation battle. He also has flair about him as well as picking out a pass from nothing which is really fun to watch. Honourable mentions also to Tyrese Campbell and Harry Souttar, two youngsters that have burst into life this season.

Weak links in the side?

I’d have to go for Tommy Smith. An underrated player last season, the right back hasn’t hit the heights of his 19/20 campaign. He’s very suspect in 1v1 defensive situations and gets caught out of position an awful lot.

What needs to be done this summer to mount a promotion push next season?

A couple of transfers in the summer... definitely some new wing backs (Rhys Norrington-Davies on a permanent would be great too) as well as a player like Alex Mowatt or Ryan Wintle of Crewe Alexandra in midfield to partner Sam Clucas or Jordan Thompson.

How optimistic or pessimistic are you about 2021/22?

I’m optimistic for next season. I don’t think we’ll walk the league, but I do feel if we have a good summer we’ll be in and around the playoff picture.

Links >>> Stoke City official website >>> Stoke Sentinel – Local press >>> The Oatcake – Message Board >>> The Wizards of Drivel – Podcast

The Twitter @loftforwords, @HarveySCFC_

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TacticalR added 22:20 - Apr 30
Thanks to Harvey.

Sounds a bit like us in the Premiership hangover years...slowly waiting for the big contracts to run down. O'Neill did well in charge of Northern Ireland so it will be interesting to see how does when he has a bit of money to spend.
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francisbowles added 10:04 - May 1
Thanks Harvey.

It must be vey disappointing to be in a play off position and have that wrecked by injury.

Have a good summer and see you next season.
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