Stoke City manager Gary Rowett has revealed that summer signing Sam Clucas could finally make his debut for the Potters, over two months after joining the Championship club.
Clucas was signed for £6 million from Swansea City on deadline day but has been sidelined after undergoing knee surgery.
And now Rowett has disclosed that the 28-year-old midfielder is in contention to feature in Saturday’s game against former Stoke boss Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough.
“Sam’s fine, he’s trained well this week and trained a little bit last week,” Rowett said.
“The big decision will be simple. Do we thrust him back into action without a massive volume of training and without match play or are we a bit more patient with him as he builds up that resilience?
“Of course he wants to play and be involved, he’s chomping at the bit and he’s looked really good in training which shows what a quality player he is.
“We don’t want to get him back in too quickly and then face a load more games out. So when he does come back in, whether that’s this week or next, we want to make sure he’s fit to go for the rest of the season.”
In a welcome boost for Rowett as they prepare to take on Pulis’ high-fliers, Nigerian international Peter Etebo has also recovered from injury.
“Peter’s trained for the last couple of days,” he added.
“Mame Biram Diouf hasn’t but might be ok to train on Friday. Again, nothing too serious but when he’s had two hamstring injuries quite recently, and I’ll have a big decision to make again.
“We have a few like that. As a manager I want everyone to train all week but the reality of the championship and football is that you have to nurse one or two players through the week.
“Sometimes they make the game and sometimes they don’t and that’s a decision which is always based on what’s best for the team, not the individual.”
Also returning to contention is right-back Cuco Martina, who missed last week’s win over Bristol City, with Tom Edwards’ performance at Ashton Gate providing Rowett with a selection dilemma at full-back.
“Of course Tom will want to keep his shirt,” Rowett said, “any player who plays well will want to play in the next game, particularly when you’ve won the game.
“I’ve got a difficult decision because Cuco Martina played really well in the period before that.
“He was brave enough to hold his hands up and say he wasn’t quite 100 per cent for the Bristol game, which I think is the right thing to do for the team. But by being honest, he’s lost his place.
“It’s a good position for me to be in. I’ve got two players chomping at the bit to play, two players who have both performed well. Whoever I select, I have confidence in them to do the job.”