It’s certainly no secret that Michael O’Neill is a fan of the SPFL.
The Stoke City boss has repeatedly expressed his admiration of the Scottish game and believes that there are a number of potential EFL Championship stars-in-waiting north of the border.
“It’s about assessing the level of play and then try to benchmark whether those players could step up and play in the Championship.
“So there are players who maybe come into Hearts, Hibs (Hibernian) or Aberdeen and it’s a case of keeping an eye on the situation.”
With the summer transfer window ready to kick in after the remaining games of this season, here are six SPFL players whom the Potters have been linked with and could look to bring in next season.
Martin Boyle (27, Hibernian)
The most recent of the six in this list to be linked with a move to Staffordshire, winger Boyle played a key role for Hibernian this season, registering five goals and five assists in 20 league appearances to help them finish seventh in the Scottish Premiership.
The Australian international is one of a number of Hibs players to have been asked to take a wage cut under the current circumstances after the club revealed significant cuts to their annual budget.
Primarily operating as a right-winger this season, Boyle is out of contract at the end of next season and will reportedly be allowed to leave this summer to help with the club’s current situation - with the Potters reportedly set to table an initial bid of £1m.
Lawrence Shankland (24, Dundee United)
Previously linked with a move to Stoke in January, the 24-year-old continued his early-season form by notching up 24 league goals in 26 games for Scottish Championship champions Dundee United.
He was awarded a first international call-up in October, scoring once in Scotland’s 6-0 win over San Marino.
However, prising him away from Tannadice Park won’t be easy, with the forward having a signed a three-year deal last summer as well as rumoured interest from both Celtic and Rangers.
Lyndon Dykes (24, Livingston)
Livingston were the surprise package this season in the Scottish Premiership, finishing fifth, with Dykes at the forefront of their attack.
The Australian-born forward registered 12 goals and ten assists in 33 appearances this season, helping the Lions to a first top-six finish in 18 years.
Dykes has reportedly attracted interest from both Celtic and Rangers, as well as a number of Championship clubs, with the Daily Mail claiming Livingston would accept a bid of around £2m.
Scott McMann (23, Hamilton Academical)
Left-backs haven’t exactly been easy to come by for the Potters as of late.
With Stephen Ward out of contract on June 30 and Bruno Martins Indi filling in for the majority of this season, the position must be seen as a top priority come the window.
Turning 24 in July, McMann featured 34 times for a Hamilton side that finished eleventh in the Scottish Premiership this season.
An academy graduate at New Douglas Park, the full-back signed a new contract last October until the summer of 2022 and is said to be valued at around £500,000.
Jordan Jones (25, Rangers)
Another previous January link, winger Jones has struggled for regular game time in his first season in Glasgow, featuring just three times after returning from a knee injury in December.
The 25-year-old is no stranger to O’Neill either, after the Stoke boss handed him his international debut for Northern Ireland against Switzerland in December 2017.
Competing for a starting place with the Potters’ existing wingers could be an issue, however, with James McClean now back in action alongside Tom Ince, as well as the scheduled return of Thibaud Verlinden next season.
Louis Appere (21, Dundee United)
After a breakthrough season with the Tangerines, Appere appears to be on the radar of both Stoke and Rangers, with Football Insider claiming United would accept a bid of around £2m.
A versatile forward, Appere has featured on both wings and through the middle across his 33 appearances this season, registering six goals and five assists in the process.
And at just 21, the Scottish youth international could provide suitable backup for O’Neill’s side next season.