This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict’ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Aston Villa are set to release defender James Chester upon the expiry of his contract, opening the door for a potential permanent move to Stoke City this summer.
Premier League clubs have had to announce their retained lists, with Chester penning a contract extension until the end of the season so he can complete the season on loan at Stoke.
Chester joined Stoke City on loan in January, with the 31-year-old featuring eight times for the Potters since making the move from Villa Park.
The Wales international is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, though, with Villa set to get rid of 14 players including the likes of Andre Green and Callum O’Hare.
Should Stoke look to make Chester’s deal at the bet365 Stadium permanent this summer? The FLW team have had their say…
He’s still a top player and I think he’d be an asset for several Championship sides next season, particularly as he is now available on a free.
Stoke are obviously familiar with him and that might bolster their chances of getting him but they do need to avoid going down in the Championship this season.
I think we’ll see some big changes at the Potters this summer no matter what as Michael O’Neill gets to grips with his squad and looks to move on some higher earners.
What Chester would want financially might scupper this deal but, if something can be agreed, then why not try and get it done?
Something in my head is saying no.
On his day, Chester is an excellent Championship defender but I think there are real question marks surrounding his ability to maintain fitness.
The Welshman is relatively injury-prone and at the age of 31, I don’t expect that trait to deviate anytime soon.
I also look at Stoke’s current centre-backs and a large majority of them are reaching the latter stages of their careers, notably Ryan Shawcross and Danny Batth, do they really need another one?
I think Michael O’Neill should ensure Nathan Collins comes to the fore next season, and that he looks to bring in some more youth this summer – I just don’t see Chester being a viable option.
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You can see the sense in that given the fact he’s had a decent loan spell with the Potters.
I think it is only fair to say that Chester’s best days are probably behind him, but he’s still a decent option to have around in the Championship and he’s proved to be a valuable addition at Stoke in the short-term.
On a free, there’s not much risk and Chester is a top professional, who will do more good than harm if he earns a permanent deal.
Michael O’Neill will be looking to go through his squad and fine-tune it this summer and, for me, bringing Chester back would be a good place to start.
However, there is spades more work to be done.
It would make obvious sense for Stoke to at least try and win Chester’s contract on a permanent basis, especially as it would be on a free transfer.
Chester isn’t a player for the long-term, of course, but he is a leader and a very experienced player, and he could help O’Neill turn things around at the bet365 after a couple of dismal seasons in the Championship.
Chester knows what it takes to get out of this division, and looking at the impact he has made since joining the Potters, it should be a no-brainer for him to move to Stoke.
If the player wants the move, then I can’t see anything getting in the way of Chester moving to Stoke, however the club need to ensure that they don’t overpay for his services.