Tony Pulis’ summer so far has been spent scouring the transfer market for players to boost Stoke City’s assault on the Europa League, but with Jonathan Woodgate the only arrival so far, the manager is finding progress in the window slow going as he prepares to unleash the Potters’ distinct style on Europe.
Carlton Cole was one player who seemed destined for a move to the Britannia Stadium, but the West Ham United striker’s proposed switch collapsed last week over the England international’s wage requests. Money may not have been the only sticking point, however, if the Daily
Birmingham City’s Cameron Jerome, Daniel Sturridge of Chelsea and Blackpool’s DJ Campbell are three of the names consistently mentioned in connection with Stoke, with Ricardo Fuller possibly moving on. Whichever centre-forward eventually signs in at Stoke, they will have to slot almost in to Pulis’ tried-and-trusted system. Less a 4-4-2 formation than a 4-4-1-in which the burly target man plays in the slightly deeper role, be it Jerome, Sturridge, Campbell, Cole or another yet to be identified, great responsibility will fall on the new boy’s shoulders. However, the four names most often linked to Stoke can be divided into two categories – Jerome and Cole are far more physical than the nippy, skilful Sturridge and Campbell. Kenwyne Jones remains at Stoke after an encouraging first permanent season – the former Sunderland striker did spend a few months at the club in 2005 – and nine goals in 34 games is a decent return. Nevertheless, with the rigours of European football to consider and only Fuller and Jonathan Walters to partner Jones currently, a new striker or two is a priority. Craig Bellamy is also a possible target.
Pulis has also been busy adding to Stoke’s defence. Woodgate has arrived on a free transfer, a sensible pay-as-you-play deal, but Birmingham’s Scott Dann is also in his sights after Abdoulaye Faye moved on. Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross and part-time centre-backs Marc Wilson, Danny Higginbotham and Danny Collins remain in Pulis’ squad, but the manager often prefers Huth at right-back and Wilson at left-back or midfield, while Higginbotham is recovering from a serious injury. The left-back slot is another identified by Pulis as in need of strengthening, with Aston Villa’s out of favour Stephen Warnock a rumoured target, although Alex McLeish has made noises about offering the former Blackburn Rovers defender a fresh start at Villa Park. Bolton’s Matt Taylor is also on Pulis’ wish list for the left-back position. Versatile Olympiakos player Vasilis Torosidis, the 26-year-old Greece international capable of playing across the defence or in midfield but most comfortable at full-back, has been linked in some sections of the Press and would cost in the region of £7m.
In midfield, Charles N’Zogbia is interesting Stoke as much as he is Aston Villa and Everton, with a £10m price tag suggested, but the Potters’ left wing is already occupied by Matthew Etherington and the right by Jermaine Pennant. N’Zogbia would offer Pulis the option of a more creative player behind the lone striker as well as providing competition on either flank. Stoke were linked to the Frenchman ahead of this year’s January transfer window but with the clear priorities now resting in defence and attack, an expensive purchase of a winger appears unlikely. Thomas Hitzlsperger, reportedly available on a free transfer from West Ham, has been discussed as a central midfield addition but his Hammers teammate Cole remains a more wanted option. With a difficult tie against Hadjuk Split to come in the Europa League third qualifying round Stoke will not have an easy ride in their first European action for a generation, and such a test is likely to prove a fascinating one.
Jonathan Woodgate DEF – free
Eidur Gudjohnsen FWD – released
Abdoulaye Faye DEF – released
Ibrahima Sonko DEF – released
Carlton Cole FWD – West Ham United
Cameron Jerome FWD – Birmingham City
DJ Campbell FWD – Blackpool
Daniel Sturridge FWD – Chelsea
Charles N’Zogbia MID – Wigan Athletic
Thomas Hitzlsperger MID – West Ham United
Scott Dann DEF – Birmingham City
Stephen Warnock DEF – Aston Villa
Matt Taylor DEF – Bolton Wanderers
Vasilis Torosidis DEF – Olympiakos