Stoke Club Focus – Injury problems persist but so too does Crouch’s eagerness to impress

Deciding whether players recovering from injuries have done so sufficiently enough to be pitched back into first team action is a conundrum which comes with the territory of being a football manager at any level. Players who return to the cut and thrust of competitive action having overcome the worst, but not the full extent, of an injury are susceptible to breaking down with a recurrence of the initial problem, which ultimately consigns them to another, possibly longer, spell on the sidelines. At present this is exactly the situation that Stoke City manager Tony Pulis wants to avoid arising in the case of four key members of his squad but since they are just that, it is understandable that he will give the players in question as long as possible to prove they are fit to feature against Fulham at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.

Jermaine Pennant, Kenwyne Jones, Mark Wilson and Matthew Etherington had all picked up injuries prior to the recent international break and although each player is believed to have returned to almost peak condition, they still have not quite done so. For Pulis, this constitutes the risk that fielding any of the players against Fulham may lead to them breaking down again, thus jeopardising the hard work they have put into their respective recoveries to date. This risk could rationally deemed as one too big to take by Pulis, since given the intensity of Stoke’s upcoming fixture schedule, which consists of seven games in 22 days, so he can ill-afford to lose any of his players for longer than is absolutely necessary.

Whilst it remains to be seen if any of the aforementioned quartet will be involved in Stoke’s home clash with Fulham, one player who will be, as the Potters look to avenge the 2-0 defeat that they endured in last season’s corresponding fixture, is Peter Crouch. Being completely omitted from Fabio Capello’s squad as England clinched qualification for Euro 2010 with a 2-2 draw in Montenegro has understandably left Crouch a little downbeat on the potential of adding to his 42 appearances and 22 goals at international level, but the striker has also publicly declared that his main concern is with continuing to enjoy playing for and contributing to the success of Stoke.

By scoring important goals against Manchester United and Besiktas since his move from Tottenham Hotspur at the end of August, Crouch has given himself a strong platform at Stoke from where he can go onto meet and exceed the high expectations, which are naturally held of him as a £10m player. Ever the voice of reason, Pulis has highlighted that if Crouch does do the business for Stoke, the player will once again come into the reckoning for England, which is opinion hard to argue with.

Subsequently Pulis will be keen for Crouch to start this process by helping Stoke overcome their documented injury problems and to record a win over Fulham, which would ensure the Potters retain their place in the top half of the Premier League table.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Stoke v Fulham

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