This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict‘ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Stoke City centre-back Harry Souttar has been ruled out for the remainder of the 2021/22 campaign after suffering a serious ligament injury, with the club confirming this news yesterday afternoon.
The 23-year-old was stretchered off during a World Cup qualifying game for Australia last week, sparking fears that he may be out of action for the long term after being unable to walk off the pitch.
These worst fears became a reality with his update from the Potters’ media team, with the central defender set to undergo surgery on his return to England and after that, start a long recovery period that is set to last at least six months.
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Adopting a back three under Michael O’Neill, this setback is a serious blow to the second-tier outfit who would have seen the Australian international as a key player in a potential promotion push, performing admirably in recent months and attracting interest from Premier League trio Aston Villa, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur.
They will now be relying on the likes of James Chester, Danny Batth, Leo Ostigard and Ben Wilmot to remain solid throughout the rest of the season, drawing on the latter’s promotion-winning experience with Watford last season in their quest to return to the top flight.
Focusing less on his alternatives and more on the 23-year-old though, his long-term injury provokes one key question: How much of a blow will his absence be to Stoke’s promotion chances this term?
We asked three of our writers at Football League World for their verdicts on this talking point.
This is unquestionably a major blow for the Potters and to their hopes of sustaining a promotion push this season in the Championship.
Harry Souttar has emerged as such an integral part of their starting line-up and to lose his influence on the side for the rest of the campaign is a massive worry for Michael O’Neill.
Stoke will have to enter into the transfer market to try and provide their squad with another quality option to replace Souttar, but doing that in the winter window will not be an easy task at all. Having said that, it seems there is hope with their interest in John Souttar and he might be the man to come in and replace the sizeable loss of his brother.
There is though a reason why the likes of Everton, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur have all been linked with a potential move for Souttar. That is because the Australia international has been showing consistently that he is good enough to progress beyond the Championship in his career.
So, not having a player of his quality for the rest of the campaign is a big issue. Stoke though do have other options available to them at centre-back that have more than enough experience to see them through and maintain their performance levels.
Therefore, whilst losing Souttar is a major blow, if the right replacement is found in January it should not damage their promotion ambitions too much.
It’s obviously bad news for the Potters.
Souttar is a top young defender and I do think it wouldn’t have been long before we saw him in the Premier League one way or another had this injury not come about.
Stoke at least will be able to keep him for a little longer now but that will come as small consolation at the moment given the extent of the injury.
Obviously, he was a key part of the Stoke defence and will represent a big blow to their side but I will say that they have other good players that can cover and the January window isn’t too far away at least.
I think they’ve still got a sporting chance of getting into the play-offs for the end of the season but this is obviously a setback, make no mistake.
Harry Souttar being sidelined for the remainder of the campaign is most definitely a big blow – but if Stoke can recruit well in the winter window then there is no reason why it should derail their season.
He has been a mainstay in the side and certainly is a key player for the Potters, proving to be one of the most prominent and impressive players in his position in the league.
The club will certainly miss his presence at the back and it might lead to more goals being shipped – but if they can plug the gap well enough until the turn of the year, it will allow the side to then bring in a suitable replacement and see them through until the summer.
How well they do then and whether it will impact their season may not be down to Souttar’s absence but may instead come down to how efficiently Michael O’Neill and his team can work the transfer market. If they can do a good job, then there is no reason why they cannot still be promotion contenders.