Saturday 25 November 2017

Jon Walters: I never wanted to leave Stoke City

Given ready for taste of first team action for Stoke in Cup tie at Fulham

Jonathan Walters celebrates his goal against Leicester City last Saturday
Jonathan Walters celebrates his goal against Leicester City last Saturday

Ireland international Jonathan Walters says his commitment to Stoke City was never in question despite his ongoing contractual dispute with the club.

And one of his international team-mates will come under the spotlight this evening as Shay Given is in line to make only his second appearance for Stoke when they travel to play Fulham tonight in the League Cup.

While Glenn Whelan was picked out by some observers as Stoke's man of the match, Walters was also hailed by Stoke fans for his display in Saturday's Premier League clash with Leicester City.

From an Irish viewpoint, his goal in that 2-2 draw was the only goal scored by an Irish player in the top two divisions in England over the weekend, a worrying state of affairs for Martin O'Neill ahead of Euro 2016 clashes with Germany and Poland next month.

Walters could possibly have been in action for Leicester against Stoke as the Foxes tried to bring in the striker before the transfer window closed but Walters remained a Stoke player as no deal was done, though though the contractual row between player and club has yet to be sorted.

Walters, out of contract at the end of this season, has been offered a new one-year deal but he is keen for a longer stay, something the club are not willing to promise a player of his age.

But the veteran has promised that the wrangle won't affect his performances.

"What's meant to be is meant to be. I'm still here and I'm not going to be one of those who don't want to play. We'll see what happens in the next year," said Walters, pleased to find the net against Leicester last weekend.

"It's one of those things, I'm still here and I'm happy to get on the scoresheet.

"I'm always going to be proud to pull on a Stoke shirt. This is my sixth year and we've been through a lot. We've got better year on year as a team.

"This is a big test for us this season after the start we've had, but I will never shirk away from a challenge and this is another challenge."

Meanwhile, Stoke coach Mark Bowen expects fringe players like Given and Stephen Ireland to get a run-out against Fulham tonight, as Given's only previous appearance for Stoke was in a win over Luton Town in the previous round.

"There are players chomping at the bit and this may well be a chance for them to come in and put themselves in the frame for the game at the weekend, and thereafter," said Bowen.

"We have a very strong squad here and we can make changes without impacting the quality of the starting eleven, which is a good position to be in." Stoke could also promote Ireland U21 man Bobby Moseley to the bench tonight.

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