After a shaky start to this summer’s transfer business, the acquisitions of Michael Kightly, Charlie Adam, Steven N’Zonzi and latterly Michael Owen look like another job well done by Stoke manager Tony Pulis.
However, though Pulis has forged together a competitive squad of proven Premier League quality, that is not to say that he is an advocate of squad rotation. In certain positions, Pulis has his undoubted favourites, leaving a few players continually watching on from the bench or from the stands. These are not poor players but proven internationals, some of whom have even played in the Champions League. At Stoke, three classic examples are Matthew Upson, Wilson Palacios and Kenwyne Jones.
The signing of Upson, who started for England at the last World Cup, from West Ham was deemed as a coup for Stoke and yet since his arrival last summer he has found his route to his preferred role of central defence blocked by the imperious form of Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth. Perhaps however, Pulis has got this decision right. Rotation at centre-back, a position where understanding and partnerships are key, could end up backfiring and so Upson may have to make do with the occasional appearance as deputy or at left back.
Palacios is an extremely curious case. Having arrived last summer in a joint deal with Peter Crouch from Tottenham, it was Palacios rather than the striker who was seen as the more exciting purchase. After all, Palacios had been coveted by Manchester United in the past and had shone as Spurs reached the Champions League in 2010 before acquitting himself well on the biggest European stage against the likes of Werder Bremen and AC Milan no less.
However, it is fair to say that Palacios has never shown anywhere near his true capabilities at the Britannia and has been kept out of the team by the solid but hardly awe-inspiring duo of Glenn Whelan and Dean Whitehead. The Honduran has often looked either unfit or uncommitted to be a Stoke City player depending on which fan you talk to. With the signings of Adam, N’Zonzi and Geoff Cameron, it looks fair to say that Palacios, for all his talent and pedigree, does not have much of a future at the Potters.
Finally, Kenwyne Jones arrived at Stoke in the summer of 2010 for a then club record of £8m yet after a reasonable first season, has slowly found himself pushed down the pecking order and now conceivably finds himself below Crouch and Owen as well as Jon Walters and Cameron Jerome. Jones still has time on his side at only 27 and on his occasional appearance in the cups continues to score goals. However, it appears that Pulis has no place for the Trinidadian in his plans and like Palacios, Jones may well be looking towards the January transfer window for an escape route to regular football.
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