Stoke City have been linked with numerous players in recent weeks, ahead of what could be a valuable January transfer window for Michael O’Neill’s men.
Not only are they thought to be interested in Hearts centre-back John Souttar, but another man in ex-Bristol City goalkeeper Frank Fielding is also reported to be training with the club ahead of a potential move.
That’s according to The Sun’s Alan Nixon, with the 33-year-old potentially coming in as a temporary replacement for Josef Bursik who is certain to be out of action until the next calendar year.
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That leaves Welsh international Adam Davies and ex-Gillingham shot-stopper Jack Bonham as the Potters’ two available goalkeepers, not a shabby couple of replacements to have considering the latter made 44 appearances for Steve Evans’ side last term.
Because of the nature of Bursik’s injury, the potential cries for another keeper to come in are understandable – but this doesn’t seem like the most pressing issue to address.
If they can convince Fielding to join on a two-month contract to fill Bursik’s void, it’s a bonus, but they shouldn’t devout all of their energy trying to get this deal over the line unless they suffer another injury in the goalkeeping department.
One position that does clearly need to be looked at during January though is the centre-back spots.
They may have Leo Ostigard, Ben Wilmot, Danny Batth and James Chester as their disposal in Harry Souttar’s absence, but the latter is set to spend the remainder of the season out with his ACL blow and as West Brom have already shown this season, gaps really do start to appear at centre-back when injuries start to creep in and a team is playing with three at the back.
Goals will be equally as important as their defending in their quest to secure a top-six spot – but their back three has been a crucial part of their clearly defined system this term – and needs to stay in place if they want to build on their progress this season after years of mediocrity.
The Staffordshire outfit have utilised their back three to concede just 21 goals in 20 league matches this season, a better defensive record than most and one that may only continue if they have the required quality and depth at the heart of defence in Australian international Souttar’s absence.
This is why they need to recruit another centre-back during the winter window as their first priority as they build from the back, and with that, potentially take the pressure off the club’s attackers knowing they won’t have to score twice or three times every game to secure a victory for their side.
Harry’s brother John Souttar has been linked with a move to Staffordshire – and Football League World understands they are currently leading the race to win his signature.
But with this position needing to be their key focus, the second-tier side’s recruitment team should spend a considerable amount of time drawing up a detailed list of potential candidates before making a decision on their candidate to compete with the likes of Batth, Chester, Wilmer and Ostigard.
You never know, this choice may be key in setting themselves apart from many others in the promotion mix with added competition in this department.