While many supporters have started February bemoaning their team’s activity in the January transfer window, Stoke City supporters must be rather pleased. They have made two very promising signings, loaned out players to gain some regular football, and held on to their star players.
Stoke’s two January signings could prove to be bargains in years to come. American Brek Shea may be unknown by many Potters, but his pace and strength suggest he is a perfect fit for Stoke. Considering some recent transfer fees, £2.5 million is small change for a 22-year-old with plenty to offer.
The signing of Jack Butland from Birmingham is a real coup for Tony Pulis. The young goalkeeper revealed that he turned down a move to Chelsea, and was linked with a host of Premier League sides. Although only 19, Butland already has valuable international experience, and has been an ever-present in Birmingham’s Championship campaign. He is heavily touted with being an England regular in years to come. Butland will benefit from spending the rest of the season on loan at the Blues.
Other players going out on loan include Michael Tonge, Danny Higginbotham, Rory Delap, and Matthew Upson. In the case of the first three, I feel that they could find themselves in the Championship next season as well. However, the remainder of the season will be vital to Upson’s potential Premier League future. He has struggled to cement a starting place since joining Stoke, and will be looking to rekindle the form that made him a contender for a national starting position.
Stoke City fans will be delighted that they held on to several key players. Peter Crouch was persistently linked with a move to QPR, and although his season has been hampered by injury, there are signs that he is returning to form. Ryan Shawcross and Asmir Begovic have been linked with moves to the league’s top six sides, and they have been instrumental in Stoke’s success this year. Holding on to both is a bonus for this season, but in the long term their future is in doubt.
The signing of Butland – who refused to go to a club where he wouldn’t be first choice – suggests that Begovic may well be leaving in the summer. Arsenal and Chelsea stand out as two clubs who would hugely benefit from signing the Bosnian, and the opportunity to play European football may be enough to tempt him away. Likewise, at 25, Ryan Shawcross may believe the time is right to step up a level – particularly if he wants to be an England regular.
A promising window for Stoke City, but a nervous summer around the corner.