Not A Lot In Reserve

By Dan Buxton
Last updated : 29 October 2009
was really disappointed to see our drubbing at Fratton Park midweek. As soon as the final whistle went I knew the usual mix of cliche and excuse would start to pour out from fans. "Concentrate on the league", "Mickey mouse cup", "It's only the cup". Those things may or may not be true but the fact is I was absolutely fuming at the result. 
 
Going to a side who are at the foot of the table, have a transfer embargo upon them, only scoring 5 goals all season in the league and who made wholesale changes to the side to accomodate fringe players, you would have thought that registering a shot on target with £10 million worth of strikers on the pitch would be the very, very least of expectations, but we failed to do even that for the whole 90 plus minutes. 
 
If you ask anyone who has talked to me in-depth about Stoke and they will tell you that my biggest concern with the squad is not the immediate starting eleven, but the state of the squad and the bench when injuries and suspensions kick in. This result did not go very far in allaying those concerns. 
 
Don't get me wrong, it is great to be a Stoke City fan at the moment, especially when you look at the league position and the games we have coming up before Christmas, I personally see us being on 30 points by the time the new year comes. 
 
I think Tony Pulis will be looking at squad quality in depth in the January transfer window and that is one of the biggest differences in the Premier League than any other we have been involved in. I think you can get away with having smaller squads in the lower leagues but in this one you will get punished every time. Having the players to bring on to change a game or to shuffle a formation as well as seeing you through injuries and suspensions is key. The prime example of this is Steve Simonsen and Andy Wilkinson, who have been warming the bench and both called upon for injury and suspension reasons and both clearly contenders for man of the match against Tottenham on Saturday with the kind of effort and commitment that makes you proud. 
 
It will be interesting to see what movements are made in January as we could see clubs trying to prepare for the new home grown rule and squad size changes imposed from next season. It could see teams holding on to home grown players regardless of ability to make up the numbers or offering inflated prices for players like Shawcross, who I suspect will attract large interest this winter and next summer. 
 
Either way I think we have to look towards our own squad and decide if the likes of Sonko, Cort, Griffin, Amdy Faye, Soares and Tonge to name a few are going to make any kind of impact in the league should we need to call upon them to protect a scoreline, change a game or replace an injured player and of course see us through the earlier rounds of cup competitions! 

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