Stoke City transfer latest: Premier League pursuit and new departure as Potters put out to grass

Pre-season training is in full swing at Clayton Wood, with the Stoke City players having undergone a tough day of testing before being let lose on the grass.

But while his staff crack the whip ahead of a pre-season trip to Dublin and a series of warm-up games, Potters head coach Steve Schumacher has other irons in the fire - namely adding to the three player he has already brought in this summer.

Left-back Eric Bocat, centre-half Ben Gibson and goalkeeper Viktor Johansson have all been recruited as the new Stoke hierarchy address some of the limitations of last season’s squad.

The latest player to be linked is Crystal Palace winger Jesurun Rak-Sakyi. According to Sun transfer specialist Alan Nixon, Stoke have already inquired about loaning the 21-year-old, but face serious competition. Relegated Luton, Sunderland, Queens Park Rangers and Blackburn Rovers have all been credited with an interest in the player. He missed a large part of last season with a hamstring injury, but did break into the Palace squad. However, he now seems destined for a loan away from Selhurst Park.

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Bescot exodus continues

Defender David Okagbue has become the second Stoke City player in as many days to leave the club for League Two Walsall. The 20-year-old spent last season on loan at the Bescot after joining the Potters in 2020.

An agreement over compensation allowed the move to be completed, and Okagbue told the Saddlers' official website: "It was a really easy decision for me. All throughout the off-season, all I could think of was I wanted to come here and I am happy that it got done in the end."

Okagbue, who featured 64 times for Stoke's youth sides during his time at the club, follows goalkeeper Tommy Simkin to the Bescot. The promising England youth international, who hails from Walsall, made the move earlier this week.

Green, green grass of home

It is in Dublin's fair city that Lynden Gooch and his Stoke City team-mates will be hoping some hard work and team bonding will put them on the right track for the new season and an August 10 kick-off against Coventry City.

Stoke's first friendly will be at Chester on Thursday, July 11 (7.45pm) and they will then head to the Republic of Ireland that weekend, with a game against Cork at Turners Cross scheduled for Wednesday, July 17.

Gooch was a deadline-day arrival at Stoke last summer, so has some insight into the pitfalls of missing trips like the Dublin one. He explained: It's really important. Just spending time with each other, getting to know each other, not necessarily just on the pitch, off the pitch as well, building relationships, you know.

“The best squads I’ve been in, we were all really good mates, we’d go out and do things together, a really tight knit group. And I think that's really important.

“And for the lads who have just joined, it's good for them to be here now to integrate really quickly, whereas like myself last year, I was just kind of thrown straight in - arrived one day and then I was in the squad the next.

So yeah, it's it's always a really important period when when you go away together and you spend every minute together as well.”

The Stoke players returned for pre-season on Monday, and after seeing his charges complete a series of fitness tests before taking to the grass, head of performance, Elliot Turner, told the club website: “It's been a really successful day. The lads have come back in good shape and good spirits. And the new boys have come in and just integrated into the group straight away. It is all positive.”

'Serious transfer interest'

Stoke City captain Josh Laurent is being namechecked in the media at home and abroad as transfer talk gets ramped up.

Swansea City, Blackburn Rovers and West Brom are said to all be interested in the midfielder if Stoke look to cash in now instead of potentially losing him on a free transfer in a year's time.

Meanwhile, the man who joined Stoke from Reading in the summer of 2022 is apparently the subject of 'serious transfer interest' to Gaziantep, who have just finished mid-table in the Turkish top flight, plus Serie A side Frosinone.

Now aged 29, Laurent played a key role for Steven Schumacher towards the end of the season as Stoke secured their Championship status and has one year left on his contract at the bet365 Stadium.

Telegraf, in Turkey, claim Gaziantep "have accelerated their transfer efforts... and are waiting for an answer." It adds: "Gaziantep are seriously interested and have made an offer."

Schumacher is not short of numbers in central midfield despite the loan return of Luke Cundle to Wolves and news that Ben Pearson is probably going to be out until October due to injury.

Wouter Burger, Jordan Thompson, Lewis Baker, Daniel Johnson and emerging talent Sol Sidibe will stake their claims to be part of his first team thinking.

Home thoughts from the boss

Steven Schumacher hopes two big changes to the bet365 Stadium will prove a welcome extra little advantage as he sets his sights on the club’s home record.

Schumacher ended last season strongly at headquarters, with a 3-0 win over Plymouth Argyle followed by a 4-0 thrashing of Bristol City. They won five and lost two of their last on their own turf to pull towards mid-table in the Championship and it was a sign that supporters recognised that shift when more than 28,000 turned up for the final day.

But the head coach is aware of what happened before that time too and that coming to home games has not been enjoyable for fans for too long. They had only won two out of 13 home games over nearly six months leading to mid-February, won six and lost 12 at home in 2022/23 and had lost eight of their last 17 in the season before that.

Work is in progress to set up a new 1,550-capacity fan zone behind the Boothen End for pre-match entertainment and refreshments while licensed standing is being introduced across the upper section of the south stand, known as the Caldwell Construction Stand.

The away end is being shifted into the south east corner – and segregation measures can be moved to increase or decrease the ticket allocation – so that Stoke supporters are behind the goal at that end for the first time since the stadium opened in 1997.

Schumacher said: “Hopefully it helps us. Any little advantage you can get at home you should take it so getting the standing section behind the goal, having that corner as well when we walk in from the warm up and out for the game is going to improve (the experience).

Lee Darnbrough is new head of recruitment at Stoke City.
Lee Darnbrough is new head of recruitment at Stoke City. -Credit:Hull Daily Mail

Schumacher on Darnbrough

Steven Schumacher is glad he will have a straight-talking head of recruitment to work alongside in Lee Darnbrough.

Darnbrough has moved to Stoke from Hull City to help run transfer business at a club where important appointments have been made in key roles over the last few months overseeing which players will come in and go out.

Schumacher joined as head coach in December and Jon Walters arrived back in late February while Darnbrough will work with a recruitment department which includes trusted staffers Mama Sidibe and Scott Coomber.

Full story here

Barcelona bid for Stoke old boy Jaden Philogene

This time last year, those in the know were convinced that Jaden Philogene was going to re-sign for Stoke City.

The winger had shown glimpses of his potential during a loan spell under Michael O'Neill in 2022 and benefitted from more game time the following campaign on loan from Aston Villa at Cardiff.

He was one of the main names wanted by Alex Neil in what was to prove an extraordinarily busy summer - and there were whispers about being spotted at Clayton Wood. But in the end Stoke missed out to Championship rivals Hull as the bidding got towards £5 million.

One year on, Philogene, now aged 22, could be on his way to Barcelona. Hull just missed out on the play-offs but the forward had a stellar season, adding end product to some eye-catching approach play. He ended up with 12 goals and six assists, prompting reports of an offer from the Nou Camp that could top £20m.

Sky Sports Germany's Florian Plettenberg reports: "Been told the interest of FC Barcelona in Jaden Philogene is very concrete now. Exclusive detail - Barcelona have submitted an official offer to Hull City."

Sky claim the offer is for a one-year loan with obligation to buy in 2025, which is tied to certain conditions such as playing time, for between €20-23m.

Plettenberg adds: "Barcelona have analysed him in detail.

Sead Haksabanovic on his time at bet365

Sead Haksabanovic has opened up on his time on loan at Stoke City last season after quitting parent club Celtic to join Malmo in Sweden.

The forward officially signed on at the Swedish champions this week after his move was announced last week, and he was quick to pinpoint a problem he had at Stoke - and the “fun” he also had at the bet365 Stadium.

Discussing his loan, Haksabanovic told Hallandsposten : “I started well, scored some goals and was chosen as player of the month. But then, after barely playing anything at Celtic at the end, I went to play a lot and then I got an overload, a groin injury.

“I never really recovered from it because after 45 minutes I was in pain. And when I was back – well, then the coach had been fired and the new one explained that he had other plans.

“Otherwise, Stoke is actually, apart from HBK, the club I’ve had the most fun in. It was a good group.”

The 25-year-old joined Celtic from Russian side Rubin Kazan on a five-year deal in August 2022. However, after making 40 appearances under Ange Postecoglou in his first season at the club, he fell out of favour following the arrival of Brendan Rodgers as manager last summer and spent last term on loan at Stoke.

It was a stop-start season at the bet365 Stadium, Haksabanovic making just 11 starts and eight cameo appearances due to a mixture of injuries, fitness and form.

He started brightly, claiming an assist in a 2-2 draw with Huddersfield and then scoring in a 3-2 win over Bristol City. However, he soon found himself out of the team and playing a substitute role at best, a situation now revealed as being exacerbated by an injury.

It was announced last Wednesday that Malmo had bought the attacker for an undisclosed fee. He has also had spells with Halmstads, West Ham, Malaga, Norrkoping and Djurgården during his career.

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