Stoke City have endured another underwhelming season in the Championship with Michael O’Neill’s men falling away from an early promotion push.
The Potters are edging towards their fifth season since relegation from the Premier League, and they will not be able spend as freely as they did in their three campaigns receiving parachute payments.
Therefore, an entire squad rebuild will be difficult to complete effectively and is a rare occurrence in the Championship anyway.
Experienced players like Joe Allen, James Chester, Phil Jagielka, Steven Fletcher and Mario Vrancic may well be released at the end of their contracts this summer, but there is one older player in the squad who certainly should not be.
Tommy Smith has been a very reliable performer for Stoke in recent years and was crucial to the club’s positive early season form.
The former Huddersfield Town man is approaching 250 appearances in the second tier and can contribute in the final third from right wing back, but is also an astute one versus one defender.
The Potters will be looking to shore up their defence in the summer, especially if Jagielka, Chester and Taylor Harwood-Bellis, currently on loan from Manchester City, depart.
Therefore having a player with defensive nous at right wing back, despite having greater attacking licence than a traditional full back, could be a good move, and Smith would be a good pro to keep around the dressing room even if a more ambitious right wing back is purchased.
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Seven direct goal contributions is a very respectable performance for any right wing back, and Smith has achieved that from just 28 league starts this term, demonstrating what he can still contribute to the cause.
You cannot rip everything up and start from scratch, particularly with the position that Stoke are in financially, they have shown their class in patches this season and should be confident of building a more credible top six push next term, even with similar personnel.
With very limited cover otherwise at right wing back, Smith should be offered a new two year deal and kept in the club’s first team plans heading into 2022/23.