Five rising stars who could force their way into the Stoke City first team

With The Potters continually beset by injury crises, Mark Hughes does have talent in his Under-23 squad to call upon. Here are five rising stars.

Five rising stars who could force their way into the Stoke City first team
Stoke's young Potters | Photo: Stokecityfc.com

Stoke City have struggled to bring players through their youth set-up in recent years. Although some players have had a few minutes here and there, the nature of the Premier League and the money Stoke have spent on new talent, has meant that Stoke haven't had an academy graduate in the first-team set up since Andy Wilkinson and Ryan Shotton

However, continued investment in the academy and the training facilities at Clayton Wood, means that The Potters can attract and keep hold of a higher calibre of young player, some of whom may just threaten to break into Mark Hughes' plans. Here some contenders:

1) Julien Ngoy

Stoke reportedly beat a number of prestigious clubs to secure the signing of Belgian wonderkid Ngoy back in 2013. A quick, direct and skilful forward, Ngoy has made a serious impression in his time with Stoke Under-23s, and was on the bench when Stoke visisted Goodison Park earlier in the season. Such is the hype around Ngoy, that Stoke fans' podcast The Wizards of Drivel have led a social media campaign for their manager to 'Deploy Ngoy' in the first team.

Julien Ngoy | Photo: Stokecityfc.com
Julien Ngoy | Photo: Stokecityfc.com

2) Thibaud Verlinden

On the bench for The Potters' trip to West Ham, Verlinden is an exciting winger with tremendous potential. Marko Arnautovic's recent suspension and Xherdan Shaqiri's injury problems have exposed a lack of squad depth in the wide positions for Stoke, so Verlinden could be mixing with the first team a lot more this season. Verlinden was shortlisted for the Premier League 2 Player of the Month award and has been called up to the Belgian Under-21 side. Verlinden seems to be the most likely young gun to represent Stoke in the top-flight one day soon. 

Verlinden has been mixing in first team circles recently | Photo: Stokecityfc.com
Verlinden has been mixing in first team circles recently | Photo: Stokecityfc.com

3) Dominic Telford

Burnley-born striker Telford possesses an excellent eye for goal and has been scoring on a consistent basis for Glyn Hodges' young side since arriving from Blackpool. The 19-year-old already has fourteen games in The Seasiders' first team under his belt, but the recent signing of Wilfried Bony has made Telford's quest for first team football at The Bet365 Stadium even more difficult. Small in stature, Telford could be used as in the false nine role in which Bojan has previously operated.

Telford has first team experience at Blackpool | Photo: Stokecityfc.com
Telford has first team experience at Blackpool | Photo: Stokecityfc.com

4) Joel Taylor

With Stoke hardly blessed with cover in the left back position, Joel Taylor could potentially represent a workable solution in the event of an injury crisis. Glyn Hodges has recently talked up the talent of the 20-year-old, who has recently converted from a winger to an attacking fullback. Taylor impressed in a handful of pre-season games, and during Stoke's shortlived Checkatrade trophy campaign. A fine talent, Taylor was named Stoke City Under 21's Young Player of the Season for 2015/16.

Taylor was U21 player of the season | Photo: Stokecityfc.com
Taylor was U21 player of the season | Photo: Stokecityfc.com

5) Oliver Shenton

The last few years have understandably been frustrating for the locally-born Central Midfielder. The 19-year-old is one of few academy graduates in recent years to represent Stoke in the Premier League, appearing in injury time against Manchester City in February 2015, and coming off the bench in the league month against Portsmouth a few months prior. Since then though, the door appears to have shut on the former academy player of the year, who hasn't gone out on loan to gain more first-team experience. He clearly has genuine ambitions of a first-team breakthrough, having signed a new contract at the club this year. 

Shenton has been frustrated by a lack of first team chances | Photo: Sky Sports
Shenton has been frustrated by a lack of first team chances | Photo: Sky Sports

These players will have to be patient, but there's undeniably talent here. With Stoke continually suffering injury problems, and players leaving for the African Cup of Nations in January, the chance to shine may come sooner than expected for one of The Potters' wonderkids.