The broken leg suffered by Marc Wilson in Stoke’s dour goalless draw with Sunderland may not seem like the most pressing issue to the naked eye of the football world.
Never the most heralded of players, one could argue that Wilson has hardly been fully appreciated by his own supporters since his move from Portsmouth in the summer of 2010. Indeed, it might even surprise many to know that the Ireland international has been a near ever-present for the Potters in all competitions in the two seasons since then and has played every game so far in this campaign.
Of course, his injury is hardly likely to plunge the Potters’ season into chaos. As good as a player as he is, the versatile defender does not have the impact on matches that someone like Ryan Shawcross, Peter Crouch or Matthew Etherington has. Certainly if one of those three, particularly Crouch, was missing, then Tony Pulis’ men may find it extremely difficult to emerge from matches in the Premier League with points.
However, Wilson’s ability to play in a variety of positions and particular his ability to play in Stoke’s problem position of left-back makes him a vital part of Pulis’ first team squad. The Welshman has never been a fan of marauding full-backs and Wilson is hardly that. However, what he embodies is arguably Pulis’ entire ethos: passion, commitment, consistency and solid dependability.
His absence for a prolonged period means that Pulis now has a decision to make with regards to who plays at left-back. Certainly, it appears that the manager was aware of the problem in the summer when a move for specialist left-back Goran Popov, now playing for West Bromwich Albion, fell through at the last minute when a deal looked imminent.
So just who can Pulis turn to until the January transfer window at least, where chairman Peter Coates has already revealed he is ready to splash out on a specialist replacement?
Summer signing Geoff Cameron has made an impressive start to life at the Britannia, albeit at right-back and Pulis will perhaps be reluctant to move him out of position and possibly disrupt his development. Local boy Andy Wilkinson is another option but again he appears to firmly be a right-back and, though he will as ever give his all for the cause, the more intelligent wingers would surely take advantage of his uncertainty in the position.
Arguably Pulis’ only option is a forgotten man not only at Stoke, but in English football. It is hard to believe that Matthew Upson scored England’s goal in their 4-1 defeat to Germany at the last World Cup. Indeed, since his move to the Potteries he has only made 14 league appearances and none at all this season. Although he is ageing at 33 years of age, Upson does have experience of playing at left-back for both club and country and would surely have the nous to do a job until January at least.
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