Stoke City defender Tom Edwards has insisted that the reason he made the decision to leave the Bet365 Stadium on a temporary basis for New York Red Bulls was down the speculation about him off the field.
Edwards was allowed to leave Stoke during the January transfer window last season and he made the move to New York Red Bulls for the 2021 MLS campaign.
That came with the right-back having seemingly fallen out of favour under Michael O’Neill and he needed to go and get more regular game time under his belt in the MLS.
The defender has been an impressive performer during the 2021 MLS campaign for New York Red Bulls with him managing to make 27 appearances as he helped his loan club make it to the end-of-season play-offs.
During his loan spell, the 22-year-old has been able to average 1.1 key passes per game whilst also winning three duels per match to show he has been effective at both ends of the field.
The 22-year-old has recently admitted to the media that he would be keen to make a return to Stoke in January and try to force his way back into the fold under O’Neill. That means that the Potters will now face a major decision over his long-term future.
Speaking to the Stoke Sentinel, Edwards has admitted that he needed to make a move away from Stoke in January last year due to all of the noise that was surrounding him off the field.
He said: “A lot was spoken about me off the pitch back at home, and it was very difficult for those close to me to deal with to be honest.
“The things that were being said about me really don’t reflect the sort of person that I am, which is why I needed to take myself out of the firing line.
“You have workshops when you are in the academy about dealing with those sorts of things, but when it happens to you for real it is entirely different.
“You try to prepare yourself to be strong mentally and I actually do tend to think of myself as quite a strong character too.
“I tried to brush it off really, and some of the comments which I knew were so untrue, I just tried to laugh them off.
“But it is hard not to let it affect you – I was fine on the pitch and in training, but when you can see that it is affecting your family, then that is tough.”
On his future at Stoke, he added: “Hopefully if I get the opportunity, I would love to come back and prove to people that what they were hearing simply wasn’t true.
“I am just a local lad from Stoke who absolutely loved playing for the club, and trust me, I would love to play for them again.
“I am not a boy anymore, I am a man, and I would love to come back and show everybody that by giving everything I have for the club.”
It appears that Edwards’ loan move away from Stoke has managed to achieve exactly what the Potters would have been hoping for. Clearly from these comments, the defender was not in the best place during the period leading up to his switch to New York Red Bulls and that might explain why he was not featuring heavily under O’Neill at that point.
The defender has shown that he can be a quality player when his head is in the right place and he has been very impressive with his consistent performances for New York Red Bulls. That has to provide the 22-year-old with a route back into Stoke’s first-team plans because he is an asset that they do need to try and maximise rather than allowing him to depreciate.
There is no reason why Edwards can not return to the Potters’ squad and make a major impact for them this season if he can be in the right headspace to make that return. It seems that he is with these comments and that he is determined to represent the club once again.
Considering the work that Edwards has done to get himself back on track in the past year or so, he has to be deserving of another chance at the Bet365 Stadium. It will be interesting to see how O’Neill handles the situation when the 22-year-old does make a return from New York Red Bulls.