Michael O’Neill has made a decent start to life as Stoke City boss, with the Potters picking up five wins since he arrived in November.
While it has not all been plain sailing, Stoke are now outside the relegation zone and are looking up for the first time in a while. However, avoiding demotion to League 1 is by no means a given at this stage in the season and that task will only become easier if the board provides O’Neill with the support he needs to build a competitive squad.
So far this month, things have been pretty quiet on the incomings front, with a limited number of players actually being linked. What has been more common is players being linked with moves away from the bet365 Stadium, including some of those that have played a crucial role under O’Neill since his arrival.
Tyrese Campbell and Joe Allen are two such players and losing either of them this month would not be the kind of statement fans are looking for. The club has already allowed both Badou Ndiaye and Peter Etebo to leave this month, and while neither were the first name on the teamsheet they are two players that were brought in with some fanfare.
If losing Allen and Campbell would be bad enough, Stoke have also failed to move on the likes of Scott Hogan and Mark Duffy, who have been playing in the under-23s in recent weeks. O’Neill hasn’t been subtle in his suggestions that they should leave either, telling his press conference this week:
“There’s still one or two players on the periphery here who need to get out and play. I don’t think there will be the opportunity for them to play here.”
While the board cannot be held responsible for club’s reluctance to take on their out of favour loan players, they can offer O’Neill more support. It is clear Stoke need reinforcements in most areas of the pitch and only through proper investment can the club find the quality of player that can help drive the club up the table.
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If the club want to improve, both the talent identification and recruitment needs to improve, and this will only be achieved through a more active approach from those at the top.