Stoke City teen ace on loan life, play-offs and finding his feet in senior football

Emre Tezgel has had a first real taste of senior football out on loan at MK Dons.
Emre Tezgel has had a first real taste of senior football out on loan at MK Dons. -Credit:MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

This time last year, Emre Tezgel was relaxing on holiday and watching the play-offs on television. Now he is heading into four huge days out on loan from Stoke City with MK Dons hoping he can be a big part of them.

The 18-year-old England youth striker - having become the youngest ever Stoke player at 16 - has been finding his feet in League Two in what is his first taste of regular senior football.

He has scored three and set up another three in his last five matches to help secure fourth place and two legs against Crawley Town. The winner will take on either Doncaster Rovers or Crewe Alexandra at Wembley in a promotion shoot-out.

READ MORE: Schumacher makes 'bare minimum' demand after saving Stoke

READ MORE: Player ratings vs Bristol City as Million Manhoef leads rout

“It’s been a good experience,” he told StokeonTrentLive. “I’ve been at Stoke my whole life so being away is a taste of something different, the senior football aspect of it has really helped me and I’ve been enjoying it.

“I feel like it always takes a bit of time to get used to new surroundings, new teammates and a new style of play but I feel like I’ve settled in and it’s a great group of lads.

“There are some great players there and it helps to be around good players and we’ve had lots of high-scoring games. It probably says something about the lads we’ve got that we’ve scored so many goals. It’s exciting.”

Tezgel has always been an eye-catching number 9 coming through the ranks at Stoke, promoted into higher age groups to push himself. This has been another big push, physically, especially on the back of a tough 18 months when he spent too long in the treatment room.

He has been used in different positions too, testing himself against the different defenders League Two has to offer.

“It’s been a mixture,” he said. “I’ve played as a striker and a number 10 and I feel that can only help me really, being able to play in different positions and try things out. It’s been a good variety and some good playing time even if every player would always say they want to play more.

“The obvious answer about the difference between under-21s football and this is the physicality and getting used to how quick it is and being able to handle the ball under pressure. That’s a massive part of it.”

There have been a few other big parts of it in terms of development, from living away from home and looking after himself to the challenge of being a loan player itself and fitting into a new changing room.

He said: “It’s always tough, especially going down on deadline day as well, last one in, but there are a few other loan lads and we get on. It’s a great group of lads who have made me feel really welcome and I couldn’t ask for a better changing room to go into.

“We’ve got massive games coming up and hopefully we can end positively and take it to Wembley. This time last year I was watching the play-offs on holiday. They are always good games and I’m looking forward to it.”

This is all on the back of that difficult period when Tezgel had been on the fringes of the first team but was picking up injuries just as he seemed primed for a breakthrough. He was with the seniors in pre-season but had to take a step back and slow down his rehabilitation from a quad injury just to set his body up for the longer term.

He said: “No player likes getting injured and there have been set-backs but at the end of the day that’s football and you have to keep working hard. I’ve just got to bring myself back up now and show everyone what I can do.

“It was obviously frustrating in the first half of this season not being able to play but in the longer term I think it’s helped me. I feel a lot better now, physically I’m feeling good and looking forward to the future.

“Coming through these minutes on loan has been important. I’ve obviously had my injury struggles so to show I can stay fit has been a massive part of this - and, touch wood, I can keep that going.”

He added: “My focus is on MK and the play-offs but I’m looking forward to next season too, trying my best and seeing what happens. I’ll come back for pre-season and try to show everyone what I can do.”

So it’s Crawley away this afternoon (3pm) and then back to stadium:mk on Thursday.

“It’s a very nice stadium, the pitch is great and there are 30,000 seats, so it’s been a great experience,” he said. “Hopefully it’ll be a special couple of weeks and hopefully we can get to Wembley. We’ll put the work in during the semi-finals and get the job done.”

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section