Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill has suggested that he is going to afford chances for all three of Angus Gunn, Adam Davies and Joe Bursik to feature in the remaining eight games of the campaign.
The Potters will be starting to turn their attentions towards next season and O’Neill will be building up ideas of who he wants to be an important member of the side next term. That comes with Stoke set for a midtable finish in the Championship, with them not in any relegation trouble, but also too far adrift of the play-off places to break into the top six in the remaining eight matches.
One key area that needs to be addressed is in goal, with the Potters needing to decide who their first choice between the sticks is going to be next season. All three of Gunn, Davies and Bursik have been handed chances to start for different reasons throughout the campaign. They have all contributed towards the club recording 18 clean sheets to date in the league.
Speaking to the Stoke Sentinel, O’Neill suggested that he is not going to be able to keep all three players happy at the club next season. While he also revealed the plan will be to give them all a chance to impress in the next eight games and assess who will be the number one moving forwards into next term.
He said: “The reality is that I won’t keep them all happy. The ones who aren’t playing won’t be happy. It’s as simple as that. Whoever plays will be happy.
“It’s very rare that you have two goalkeepers injured at the same time as we had so between now and the season’s end we have eight games left.. I rotated the goalkeepers in the last two games, we gave Adam Davies a chance and I thought he was very unfortunate because injuries had denied him a chance to cement that place, Angus stepped in, did well, Angus got injured… Joe stepped in. That was a situation that was forced upon us, it wasn’t something we had planned to do.
“In the next eight games we will probably give all three goalkeepers an opportunity at one point or another. It’s important that the department stays strong and when we come back in pre-season, I’ll pick the one that I think is the best one to play.”
Stoke have a major issue over which of their three keepers should be their number one, but it is a problem that most other managers in the Championship would settle for. However, O’Neill is right that he will not be able to keep them all happy at the Bet365 Stadium and that is why he needs to make the right choice over who he wants to be their main keeper for next term.
There are genuine merits for all three to have a real claim for the position. Gunn has managed to record six clean sheets and average two saves per game in his 14 league appearances (Sofascore) and has Premier League experience. While Davies has managed to keep five clean sheets and average 2.2 saves per game in his ten appearances (Sofascore) and has recently been first choice.
Bursik meanwhile whilst the youngest of the three was also very impressive at times when he was filling in for the injuries to the other two stoppers and kept seven clean sheets in 15 games (Sofascore). It will therefore be intriguing to see who O’Neill selects next term and he will have to keep in mind whoever does not get picked might well want to leave.