How Stoke City are using Liverpool and Arsenal to build for the future

Gareth Owen has been academy director at Stoke City since 2019.
-Credit: (Image: Stoke Sentinel)

While the big focus this week has been on the return of Stoke City's senior players to Clayton Wood for pre-season testing and training, behind the scenes events have been happening that could be equally significant for the club's future.

The Potters are justifiably proud of the young players who have come through their academy ranks, plus those brought in a little later to bolster their under-21s team.

And so, this week, Stoke added four new recruits to their second-team ranks, snapping up potential stars from the likes of Rangers, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool with the aim of uncovering a gem who might have been misplaced by those giants of the British game.

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Stoke have seen the likes of Sol Sidibe progress from the junior ranks to be linked with some of Europe's biggest clubs. Other teens with the potential to knock on head coach Steven Schumacher's door over the next 18 months or so also include Emre Tezgel, Nathan Lowe and Jaden Dixon, who have been called up for their country.

As such, the club is seen as an excellent stepping stone to potentially bigger things - initially within the Stoke set-up or possibly with bigger clubs - a route taken in recent years by the likes of Harry Souttar and Nathan Collins, two young centre-backs now both playing for Premier League clubs.

So welcome goalkeeper Noah Cooper, defender Francis Gyimah and attacking duo Kieron Willox and Chinonso Chibueze, who have all signed professional terms in ST4 this week.

Cooper, Gyimah and Willox arrive after successful trials with the club at the end of last season, while Chibueze joins the Potters following several years in Chelsea’s Academy.

Stoke Academy Director Gareth Owen has provided an insight into each of the new additions, who have been getting to know their new team-mates even better this week after also returning for pre-season on Monday. Here's is Gareth's lowdown on his new talent...

Noah Cooper (aged 18): Noah is a goalkeeper and joins from Arsenal. He came in on trial towards the end of last season and impressed everybody with his potential, athleticism and, most importantly, his character and willingness to learn. We are excited by his potential and delighted he has opted to join us, with several other clubs also wanting to sign him this summer.

Francis Gyimah (17): Francis spent the latter part of the season with us following an agreement with Liverpool. He’s an athletic left-back who comes highly recommended and with an enormous amount of potential. Left-backs with his physical output who can defend and also attack are in short supply in professional football, so we are delighted he has joined us.

Kieron Willox (18): Kieron is a right winger who we are really excited to have signed from Rangers. He spent a short amount of time with us on trial towards the end of last season and impressed everybody with his two-footed ability. Kieron's crossing with both feet is probably his stand-out attribute and we believe he will add good balance to our attack.

Chinonso Chibueze (18): Chinonso arrives from Chelsea and is a different type of winger to Kieron in that his physical attributes are his big strength. He can play anywhere across the front three and is another arrival where we have had to beat off competition from several clubs, and that is a testament to the pathway we can offer him. With Chinonso and Kieron operating in the wide areas, we are excited to have added more firepower to the under-21s group.

Which of Stoke's young stars deserves a chance in the first team next season? Click HERE to have your say