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…
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.
The Twitter @loftforwords, @HarveySCFC_
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Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
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