Every Stoke City player bar Ben Wilmot has been involved in training this week in a sign of a major turnaround in the club’s injury situation.
Not every player will be in contention to play against Coventry on Saturday, with Tyrese Campbell (hamstring) and Lewis Baker (knee) still getting up to speed after longer-term absences and checks due on Friday about centre-forward Ryan Mmaee.
But it is a welcome change for Alex Neil, who had been missing 10 players in the final game before the last international break just last month. Wilmot is likely to be out until Christmas with a knee injury but there is otherwise competition for places in a team which has picked up 10 points out of the last 12 available.
Neil said: “Training this week in particular has been challenging in that we’ve got most of our players back. Tye Campbell has been on the grass training, Lewis Baker has been on the grass training. The only one, really, who hasn’t been involved in any description is Ben Wilmot, who is more longer term. The rest of them have, albeit that some of the lads I’ve mentioned there are not quite ready but they are on the step to recovery now, which is good.”
Mmaee has missed the last two games with what was described as a ‘little nick’ and he will be assessed before Stoke head down to the CBS Arena.
Neil said this afternoon: “He’s better. Ryan has done part of the session today and we’ll take a view on him tomorrow. We’ve still got a couple of decisions to make on one or two tomorrow but if they’re not ready they are certainly not far away from being ready.”
There has been positive news on 18-year-old striker Emre Tezgel too. Tezgel stepped back to the under-18s after breaking down with a quad injury in pre-season but was up with the 21s again last weekend, scoring two in a 6-3 win over Blackburn.
Neil said: “He’s good but Emre is one we’ve taken our time with. Over the last probably two seasons here, he has broken down too often with too many long-term injuries so we’ve spent a lot of time trying to make him more robust and get him stronger in certain areas of his body and making sure that his schedule is similar.
“Sometimes what happens with younger lads is that they get caught between the 21s’ schedule and first team schedule so you don’t really get a full week’s training. You’re prepping for first team games but end up playing with the 21s so the week becomes a little bit messy. For him, his schedule has been really, really clear. At the moment, touch wood, he’s coming through all that fine.”