Football

Stoke in Bojan mood

Hughes has positive vibes with the return of star striker, amid nine signings

Stoke fans may have plenty to look forward to the upcoming season.

Manager Mark Hughes has been busy over the summer, living up to his word to bring in new faces.

Hughes has maintained Stoke's steady progress over the past two years and oversaw a highest English Premier League finish of ninth last season.

He did that on the competition's lowest transfer outlay and, with that solid foundation, there is genuine cause for optimism as new players come in.

Hughes had six players signed before the rest of his squad had even started kicking balls in anger on their pre-season tour and was promising more. He has since added three more.

OLD HEADS

Landing former Liverpool right back Glen Johnson, who played at the World Cup just over a year ago, on a free transfer was a coup and the arrival of veteran goalkeeper Shay Given should offset the loss of Asmir Begovic, particularly with Jack Butland ready to step up and challenge.

Securing Philipp Wollscheid on a permanent deal was also good business and Chelsea loanee Marco van Ginkel comes highly rated.

Hughes did miss out on some notable targets in Yevhen Konoplyanka and Daniel Wass, but money was spent on another goalkeeper, Jakob Haugaard, and Spanish striker Joselu. They also signed 19-year-old Barcelona winger Moha El Ouriachi.

Losing the influential Steven N'Zonzi was an undoubted blow, but the biggest cause for excitement might not come from a new signing, but in the return of one of last season's stars.

Spanish striker Bojan Krkic made a big impression after moving to the Potters from Barcelona last year, quickly establishing himself as one of the focal points of the team.

He was enjoying a particularly strong spell of form when he suffered a serious knee injury playing in an FA Cup tie at Rochdale in January.

Earlier in that game, he had scored a stunning goal to set up a convincing victory but the night ended badly for him and the club, with the 24-year-old ruled out for the remainder of the season.

Rehabilitation since has gone well and Bojan is hopeful of being back in action for the start of the new campaign.

He said: "I'm very happy to be back and my focus is to start the new season playing at the same level I was before I got injured.

"I know I'm going to come back stronger, I want to enjoy football again and play good football for Stoke City, for the fans, my teammates and of course for myself."

"My injury was not good, but that is life. You have to take the next step and go up again."

Stoke will have high hopes they can move up to the next level and challenge in the top end. - PA Sport.


FAST FACTS: Stoke City

  • Founded: 1863
  • Nickname: The Potters
  • Ground: Britannia Stadium
  • Capacity: 27,740
  • Chairman: Peter Coates
  • Manager: Mark Hughes
  • Notable honours: 
Championship: Runners-up (2007/08)
nFA Cup: Runners-up (2010/11)
,League Cup: Champions (1971/72), runners-up (1963/64)

FIRST FIVE EPL FIXTURES

  • Saturday: Liverpool (home)
  • Aug 15: Tottenham (away)
  • Aug 22: Norwich (away)
  • Aug 29: West Brom (home)
  • Sept 12: Arsenal (away)

PLAYERS IN

  • Ibrahim Afellay (from Barcelona) - free
  • Marco van Ginkel (Chelsea) 
- loan
  • Shay Given (Aston Villa) - free
  • Jakob Haugaard 
(FC Midtjylland) - £600, 000
  • Glen Johnson (Liverpool) - free
  • Joselu (Hannover) - £5.8m
  • Phillipp Wollscheid 
(Bayer Leverkusen) - £2.8m
  • Moha El Ouriachi 
(Barcelona) - undisclosed
  • Sergio Molina 
(Real Madrid) - undisclosed

PLAYERS OUT

  • Asmir Begovic 
(to Chelsea) - £8m
  • Robert Huth 
(Leicester City) - £3m
  • Steven N'Zonzi (Sevilla) - £7m
  • Jamie Ness - released
  • Wilson Palacios - released
  • Thomas Sorensen - released
  • Andy Wilkinson - released

DID YOU KNOW?

Sir Stanley Matthews holds the record for the oldest player to feature in England's top division. His appearance for Stoke City against Fulham in February 1965 came shortly after his 50th birthday.


What the pundits predict

MARK LAWRENSON:

1. Chelsea, 2. Man City, 3. Arsenal, 4. Man United.

"I think Manchester United might have a 'blow you out of the water' transfer left in them this summer, I really do. I just have a feeling they might be able to prise Gareth Bale or Cristiano Ronaldo away from Real Madrid, and that would make a massive difference to the title race."

On Liverpool:

"It looks like they have a better balance to their squad than last season and they are definitely better off with their options in attack, if Daniel Sturridge has more injuries."

eplStoke CityBojan Krkic