‘He looks strong’ – Rory Delap backs outcast to revive Stoke City career

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Stoke City first-team coach Rory Delap has backed forgotten man Tom Ince to turn his career around at the bet365 Stadium next season, in an interview with the Stoke Sentinel.

Ince, 29, first arrived in Staffordshire back in 2018 when he joined from Huddersfield Town for a £10m fee, just one of many marquee signings made by Gary Rowett during that summer – and it’s a period of time that has come back to haunt them financially as they look to stay within the EFL’s profit and sustainability rules.

For the player himself, this move has also turned out to be a disaster after taking a step down from the Premier League to join the Potters.

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Since his arrival, he has been part of a team that’s been stuck in a lower mid-table Championship position for the past three seasons and despite recording an impressive 14 goal contributions at the bet365 Stadium during the 2018/19 campaign, hasn’t been able to make a similar impact since.

With this, he was shipped out on loan to Nathan Jones’ Luton Town in February and failed to make an impression as Kenilworth Road as well, after sustaining an ankle ligament injury in April.

He has since been left out of manager Michael O’Neill’s training camp to Northern Ireland this summer along with Lee Gregory, Sam Vokes and James McClean, with the Potters’ quartet all set to move on before the end of August.

However, club coach Rory Delap believes there is a way back for the 29-year-old yet with the winger still having one year left on his current deal and impressing against Wigan Athletic in a friendly yesterday evening.

In an interview with the Stoke Sentinel, the 45-year-old said: “I thought Incey was excellent tonight (against Wigan).

“He is another play who we know what he possesses in terms of his quality and ability, but he is also a lad who never shies away from his work.

“Hopefully he can get himself involved again and get back in and around the team because we all know the quality he has got.

Delap later went on to add: “One thing you can never question of Incey is his character and professionalism, that has been there from the moment he first walked through the door.

“He has maybe suffered from a lack of belief and confidence at times, from where it was previously, but he is in a really good place at the minute – he looks fit and he looks strong.”

The Verdict:

These quotes from the first-team coach should give Tom Ince a lot of confidence heading into the new seasons and considering they are from someone who can have a real influence on Michael O’Neill’s decision making, he could make a great return against the odds.

However, whether Ince should remain in Staffordshire will depend on two things. Firstly, how much playing time is he going to get after falling out of favour under the current Stoke boss? If the answer is little-to-no time, there’s no point in the player prolonging his stay at the club.

Secondly, his mindset will also be an important factor in the two parties’ decision-making process. If the winger is settled in the area and has the mental strength to turn his fortunes around with Stoke, they should keep him as long as they can afford his wages.

But if he’s already resigned to leaving and feels he needs a fresh start to kick on, again, there’s no point in him staying with the Potters.

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