Millwall manager Gary Rowett has suggested that midfielder Ryan Woods could be set to return to Stoke City in the summer when his loan spell with the Lions comes to an end.
Woods has been on loan with Millwall for the last 18 months and he has been an important player for the Lions under Rowett. The midfielder has made 39 Championship appearances for the Lions so far this campaign, but he has been out of the side in the last few weeks and been an unused substitute in two of their last four matches.
The midfielder had been surplus to requirements at Stoke when he first made the loan move to Millwall mid-way through last season, and is facing something of an unknown future in the summer when he makes his return to the Bet365 Stadium. Woods remains under contract with the Potters so could potentially return and play for them next term if Michael O’Neill wants to do that.
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Speaking to News at Den, Rowett suggested that Woods could potentially be set to make a return to Stoke in the summer and that is why he has been looking at other options in midfield over the last few games.
He said: “I felt as though it was important that we looked at Maikel [Kieftenbeld] and Billy [Mitchell], who are under contract next season, together.
“Woodsy’s been brilliant for me for 18 months now. I think he’s only missed a couple of games recently which is not much compared to some players.
“He’s been a regular starter. Again, he’s under contract at Stoke for next season. Unless there’s clarity either way I think we have to appreciate he might not be here next year.
“Therefore I have to make one or two decisions with the team for the last few games.
“But alternatively if I think Woodsy’s going to help us win the game as he has done so often then I’ll start him.
“There’s nothing there. He’s a great lad. It’s unfortunate because he’s committed to us for the time but of course I have to have to have a slightly more balanced view and look at the group in general.”
Woods has been a reliable and consistent performer for Millwall during his time on loan with the club in the Championship. However, from this message from Rowett, it now seems unlikely that he will be remaining with the Lions beyond the end of the campaign. That suggests he will be facing another uncertain period in his career when he returns to Stoke.
The midfielder’s time at Stoke has not worked out before that is why he was sent out to Millwall for 18 months. However, he could potentially get the chance to convince O’Neill that he could have the potential to play a major role for them next term if he does enjoy a good pre-season.
It does seem unlikely at this stage that he would be able to force his way straight back into the fold at Stoke, but he would still be a very useful option for the Potters to have in the middle of the park and they should at least give him the chance to show what he can do. They paid good money to bring him in from Brentford so he should be given another chance you feel.