Stoke City’s Martin O’Neil is facing his biggest test in his managerial career. 4 of his best goalkeepers are rules out for the Carabao Cup game. What remains is left for chance, as he grapples between choosing a talented but inexperienced goalkeeper, and a Veteran who had no playtime during his stay at Anfield. However, since the tournament features top English football clubs, he needs to decide fast.
The Top 4 Ruled Out
- Jack Butland was the natural choice for the Stoke Side, but his move to Premier League side Crystal Palace rendered him unavailable. The team had to sell him as he would have left as a free agent at the end of the season. His stature elevated Adam Davis to be a regular starter.
- Adam Davis held the posts for some time until he got a knee injury when they lost to Swansea in October. It ruled him out of active football for at least 8 weeks. He was a gifted keeper and his memorable time between the posts was the 8 clean sheets in Stoke’s first 12 matches.
- Angus Gunn was recalled to replace Adam Davis, but he too suffered an ankle injury. It placed him to the sidelines for at least 6 weeks, which piled pressure on O’Neil to shop for a replacement. They were forced to go to their loan vault and pick a replacement.
- Joe Bursik was hastily recalled from Doncaster. However, he cannot compete in the Carabao Cup, thanks to the competition standing rules on player transfer mid-season. It leaves the Manager with two tough decision; recall a veteran or promote a youngster.
Since the problem needs a quick solution which can breed immediate results, the Manager will choose the veteran goalkeeper, Andy Lonergan. He has the experience, exposure and command in goal. His stay at Liverpool will greatly boost O’Neil’s tactics. However, he will not sit pretty as the highly talented 19 years old, Nna Noukeu is on his heels. The time is ripe to introduce him to top-flight football.