Why Leon Clarke is worth a punt for Stoke City in January
According to claims from Football Insider, as relayed by the Stoke Sentinel, Stoke City have been credited with an interest in out-of-favour Sheffield United striker Leon Clarke ahead of the January transfer window.
The Potters, though, are expected to face competition from Championship rivals Huddersfield Town and Charlton Athletic in their pursuit of the 34-year-old, who has only made a solitary Premier League appearance for the Blades so far this season. (Football Insider h/t Stoke Sentinel)
Clarke, who netted 19 goals for Sheffield United in the Championship during the 2017-18 campaign, found himself down the pecking order at Bramall Lane in the previous campaign and spent the second half of the 2018-19 season on loan at Wigan Athletic.
With new signings Callum Robinson, Lys Mousset and Oliver McBurnie all coming through the door as a part of Wilder’s squad rebuild this past summer, the Birmingham-born veteran has been limited to just two first-team appearances so far this term.
The 34-year-old is out of contract in the summer of 2020 and the January transfer window could be the last realistic opportunity for the Blades to secure some kind of a fee by moving him on.
Clarke has unsurprisingly been deemed surplus to requirements at Bramall Lane, with Championship strugglers Stoke, Huddersfield and Charlton all keen on a deal in January.
Meanwhile, Stoke City failed to build on their dramatic 3-2 victory over Sheffield Wednesday on Boxing Day, losing 1-0 away at Fulham courtesy of a first-half goal from Bobby Reid. The Potters stayed 21st in the standings, just above Barnsley in the relegation zone on goal difference, as a result of that defeat.
The Potters are reeling in the bottom half of the table after accumulating only 6 wins in 25 games so far.
With more than half the season already done and dusted, manager Michael O’Neill will surely need to find a way to improve the results in the coming months in a bid to steer the club to safety.
To that end, the Northern Irishman has plenty of gaping holes to fill in multiple areas of his squad but O’Neill needs to prioritize the recruitment of a new striker to add more goals to his team.
A tally of 28 goals scored in 25 games lies testimony to Stoke’s struggles in front of goal in the first half of the campaign.
Lee Gregory, Sam Vokes and Scott Hogan have shared only 8 league goals among them so far while youngster Tyrese Campbell has only played a bit-part role and scored twice.
To put things into perspective, Stoke City need to bring in a prolific goalscorer during the mid-season trading period in January and Leon Clarke comes as a reliable option with proven pedigree in the Championship.
The 34-year-old is in the autumn of his career but his wealth of experience across all the four divisions of professional football in England could come in handy for the Potters.
Looking at things from the player’s perspective, Clarke is nearing his swansong at 34 and his prospects of playing regularly certainly look better at Stoke City.
As for Sheffield United, cashing in on the veteran in January would make perfect sense for Wilder, given that Clarke is going to be available for free at the end of the season.
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Suffice to say, Leon Clarke to Stoke City in January looks like a move that could work out well for all parties involved.