Stoke Focus – Crouch left behind as Stoke forwards find form

For much of this season, it is safe to say that Peter Crouch could have been certain of his place in the Stoke City starting XI. Indeed, the club’s record signing built on last season’s promising debut campaign at the Britannia by scoring five goals in all competitions by the end of September this time around.

However, Crouch’s brace against at home to Swansea on September 29th has proved to be his last so far this season and, although he retained his place in the starting line-up until the end of November, a facial injury sustained in the 2-1 victory over Newcastle opened the door for Kenwyne Jones to take his place in the side alongside regular starter Jonathan Walters.

Since then, the Trinidadian, who Crouch replaced in the team as the Potters’ record signing last August, has rejuvenated his Potters’ career. Not only has he scored four times but he has provided a constant menace to the opposition with his muscular style of play, imposing himself on matches in the way that Crouch, for all of his height, will never be able to.

Indeed, the 31-year-old has seen his appearances for the club restricted solely to the cup competitions and substitute appearances. Thus Tuesday night’s FA Cup third round replay at home to Crystal Palace would have been earmarked as a major opportunity for Crouch to show the sort of form that endeared him to the Britannia faithful, particularly with rumours emanating that Jones could well be on his way to Swansea City before the transfer window closes.

Thus, Crouch will surely be as disappointed as anyone that a largely anonymous performance was ended after just over an hour, while it was his replacement Jones that opened the scoring within minutes of his arrival. To make matters worse for the former Tottenham striker, Stoke’s other two goalscorers in their eventual 4-1 victory after extra-time were the other two strikers on the pitch in Walters and Cameron Jerome – another who has been in good form of late after being preferred to Crouch off the bench at times.

So are we seeing the end of Crouch’s Stoke City career? Hardly. The beanpole striker may be 31 but with a game that was never reliant on pace, that is hardly likely to matter too much. Of course, the departure of Jones would weigh heavily in his favour but considering the latter’s form at the moment, to let him go for as cheap as the £3 million Swansea are reportedly offering would seem laughable.

Indeed, with Stoke currently on course for their best ever Premier League finish, Tony Pulis would be wise to keep hold of and cajole the best set of strikers he has ever had during his time at the club. We haven’t even mentioned Michael Owen yet.

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

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