Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill has suggested that Rabbi Matondo’s loan move to the Potters in January has not gone as well as the club were hoping for, but that he still has time to make an impact.
Matondo arrived in the winter window on loan from Bundesliga side Schalke with the 20-year-old looking to get some regular game time in the Championship to try and force his way into Wales’ squad for the Euros. The winger has seen his impact at Stoke limited by injury issues and also the form of other players keeping him out of the side.
That has seen Matondo manage to make just two starts and five appearances in total in the Championship so far for the Potters. The winger has not been helped by O’Neill’s side not playing with conventional wingers at times since his arrival and that has seen him not really have a place in the starting line-up.
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Speaking to the Stoke Sentinel, O’Neill suggested that Matondo’s loan spell with the club will not have gone as well as he would have been hoping for when he arrived. However, he did suggest he has been showing good character in training and could even get chances to play through the middle in the remaining games.
He said: “Rabbi’s Rabbi. He’s fine. He knows he made a mistake but he’s a good boy. He’s a 20-year-old boy who was possibly led astray a little bit.
“He’s been fine. The disappointing thing for me is that he did well in the game for Wales against Mexico.
“His loan hasn’t gone as well as he’d hoped or we’d hoped, let’s be honest, he hasn’t played as much. When he came he had an injury and it took a little bit of time to get over that.
“But we’ve got seven games to go between now and the end of the season. His objective was to come and try to force his way into the Wales squad for the summer so he has to force his way into our team as well.
“It’s a little bit difficult at the minute because we’re not playing with wingers and we maybe have to look at him as an option through the middle as well. He did play there for Schalke.
“But he’s a good boy. He’s put what happened behind him and he’s learnt from it.”
Matondo’s loan spell with Stoke has been largely uneventful and that has been a major shame because he seemed like a potentially exciting addition to the squad when he made the move from Schalke in the January window. The 20-year-old has only been able to showcase very rare glimpses of the potential that he has and that will be a frustration for the Wales international.
However, O’Neill is very well aware of what players go through in the build-up to major international tournaments having been manager of Northern Ireland for so long. That, therefore, seems he will be inclined to hand more minutes to the 20-year-old in the remaining games to make sure he has enough football in him ahead of the Euros so he can make an impact with Wales.
The winger has been unlucky with injuries and then also with formation tweaks by O’Neill that have prevented him from featuring too often from the start. He has shown that he can keep his head up and still have the right sort of attitude towards his loan spell, and that is why it seems that he might get some more chances to feature in the remaining matches.