After a 14th placed finish in the league last season, Stoke City will be looking to push further up the table next year and show solid signs of progress.
There’s been a fair bit of change at the Bet365 Stadium ahead of the new season with a number of big wage players having left the club whilst five new signings have arrived.
However, Michael O’Neill has admitted that the work he has had to do this summer hasn’t been easy and not every deal lined up has happened as he told Stoke-on-Trent Live: “There are loads of players aged 30-plus who are free agents, available and coming down from big money in the Premier League at different points of their career. They all see Stoke as a good option but we’ve got to be very select in staying away from that.
“I’m not saying we’ll never sign that type of player but we’ve got to be strong enough to say we need a different profile of player at this minute in time.
“We’ve walked away from loads of deals. We’ve walked away from way more than we’ve signed. Stoke still has a really strong reputation as a club. From a player’s point of view there is a thought they can get a good contract but we’ve been pretty much straight over het last couple of windows that this is what we pay, we will not pay more than that.
“What you get then is a player at the right stage of his career.”
Furthermore, despite having made a number of additions this summer, the Potters boss is still looking for another striker to add more goals for his side next season as he said: “Yes, we’re in the market and everyone is in the league we’re in. If you look at the Championship last season you’re four or five games away from having a great season or ending up where we ended up. Probably someone who is going to score on a regular basis would have made a difference to that situation. Obviously it’s a key area where we need to improve.
“We’re not alone, everyone is chasing the same players. We’re not in a situation where we can spend two or three million.
“I know it’s hard for supporters but we have to try to get the best we can get. That’s where it becomes quite a limited pool. I think this summer there is a very narrow group of players.
“The best free agents who were in the market, people like Jed Wallace and John Swift, we weren’t able to pay the money. The players who are available to buy we’re not able to do.
“If I was naming the team tomorrow I think we’re still probably two or three players short at the minute from where we want to be in terms of the squad. The starting XI might not be but if the squad isn’t right you only need two or three injuries and suddenly the team can look very young. There’s no problem with youth but there’s experience too.
“We’ve had lads out on loan and we don’t yet know if they’re ready for this level of football.”
Quiz: The big Stoke City summer quiz – Can you score 30/30 without using Google?
Stoke have done some good business so far and generally got off to a good start not just in terms of who they’ve recruited but also looking at the people they’ve got off their wage bill at the club.
Furthermore, it seems they have learnt a fair bit from the last number of years as they have walked away from a number of deals that didn’t work for them financially.
You can understand why O’Neill is eager to make a few more additions to his side especially attacking ones as his side are looking to push up the table next season next season.