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Michael O’Neill sends defiant message on Sam Surridge at Stoke City amid mixed start



Stoke City boss Michael O’Neill has revealed he has no worries about summer signing Sam Surridge despite only seeing him scoring two goals in 11 Championship appearances so far this season, speaking to Stoke-on-Trent Live about the 23-year-old.

The forward arrived from Championship rivals AFC Bournemouth in August for a reported £5.5m fee, an eye-catching figure considering the Potters’ lack of spending in recent years and the Covid-19 pandemic reducing the number of high-fee moves in the second tier during the summer window.

It was also a surprise considering how little football he played at the Vitality Stadium before a move of this magnitude, only making his proper breakthrough on the south coast last term and scoring just four goals in 29 appearances.

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But with the Potters being able to offload some of their high earners in the summer, negotiate shrewd loan deals and recruit free agents, only spending a fee on Ben Wilmot to replace the outgoing Nathan Collins in a £12m move to Burnley, they were able to fork out a sizeable fee to tempt the Cherries to cash in.

Surridge has been part of a much-improved Stoke City side this term, managing to wake up from the past three seasons of mediocrity and make a fast start to the 2021/season to put them in contention for the play-offs at the end of the campaign.

They currently sit fifth, although some would pick out the 23-year-old’s average goalscoring record in the league so far this season as an area that needs improvement if the Staffordshire side want to remain at the top end of the table.

Manager Michael O’Neill has gone on the defensive about the forward though, saying to Stoke-on-Trent Live: “Sam will be fine.

“He had a really good start when he came here and scored goals quite easily.

“He’s had a few games now when he’s possibly had chances and not scored and not taken them.

“But the important thing as a striker is that you keep putting yourself in there and he did that against West Brom. He put himself up to take the penalty, even if he missed.

“I’ve no concerns about Sam. The boys are around him to lift anyone’s spirits if needed and the important thing was we won the game.

“He’s got an awful lot to offer us, Sam. He gave us a good lift when he came into the game, actually, what he gave us was excellent.”

The Verdict:

It’s still early days for Sam Surridge who hasn’t played that much football at this level after only starting to play regularly in the second tier last season.

Even then, he only made 29 appearances so there’s still plenty of room for improvement and development. And considering the other aspects he brings to the team, the reported £5.5m fee is likely to provide them with value for money if or when he hits his peak at the bet365 Stadium.

The presence of two up top in O’Neill’s system should also take the pressure off him to be the Potters’ main goalscorer, which could be vital in allowing him to relax and start firing in the goals.

He’s already under enough pressure as it is with his price tag, so this switch in formation could not only pay dividends for the entire squad, but also Surridge as an individual who will benefit from bouncing off his strike partner.

And as his manager said, the most important thing is the fact he’s getting himself in the right positions to score. It will only be a matter of time before he relaxes and buries those chances, so there are no reasons for Stoke fans to be concerned.

For now, enjoy watching him play. The goals will come.

A 21-year-old Reading FC fan and writer who graduated from the University for the Creative Arts in the summer with a degree in Journalism and Media Production. Other topics written about include politics, mental health and education.

ScoopDragon Football News Network

Article title: Michael O’Neill sends defiant message on Sam Surridge at Stoke City amid mixed start

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