The best Stoke City XI containing only English players from the last 15 years – Do you agree?

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15 years ago, Stoke City were an established mid-table Championship club who were just waiting to make that next step into the promotion race to become a Premier League club.

They wouldn’t have to wait too long though as in 2008, Tony Pulis led the Potters to the top flight for the first time since 1985 and for the next nine years the club were a comfortable Premier League outfit and even had a spell playing in European competition.

It would of course come crashing down in 2018 with relegation back to the Championship and that is where they have remained ever since, but Michael O’Neill is looking to put a squad together to get them back to the promised land.

Because of their many years spent in the Premier League recently, Stoke’s squads have been made up of many nations with players from across the globe wearing the famous red and white stripes.

And because of that it’s quite difficult to pick a full English team out – however let’s see the best XI from the last 15 years to play at the bet365 Stadium – disagree? Let us know what you’d change!

The goalkeeping spot for much of Stoke’s last 15 years has been taken up by an overseas player, with Asmir Begovic and Thomas Sorensen both featuring heavily, but considering he broke into the England team when he was at the Potters this has to go to Jack Butland.

Butland joined from Birmingham City in 2013 after he broke into the Blues’ senior team, but it took him a few years to establish himself as first-choice at the Potters, eventually taking his chance under Mark Hughes in 2015.

He played for England eight times whilst contracted to Stoke and for the most part he was solid and dependable for the club – mistakes did start to creep in though in his final season and he was sold to Crystal Palace for just £1 million last summer – that was despite him being linked with big-money moves just a few years prior.

Consideration was given to long-serving Stokie Andy Wilkinson who was a loyal servant to the club, however the right-back spot goes to Johnson, who was a reliable performer even in the final few years of his career.

Johnson was picked up on a free from Liverpool and aside from injuries he was pretty much a regular player for Stoke for the next two seasons, with his performances hardly ever dipping.

His third season at the club proved less fruitful – playing just 10 times in the league Johnson was a part of a side that were relegated to the Championship and he departed at the end of that campaign and then shortly after retired.

Whilst the other centre-back spot was up for debate, there’s no way this team was being created without Shawcross being a part of it.

Joining initially on loan from Manchester United in 2007, Shawcross went on to be an integral figure at Stoke for the next 12 seasons and would be a big part of why they were usually so solid at the back.

A natural leader, Shawcross was named club captain at the age of just 22 but despite his usually consistent performances, the defender won the club’s Player of the Year award just once in 2014.

Injuries began to set in in 2019 though and in his last two seasons with the club, Shawcross played just eight times in his last two seasons with the club before moving to Inter Miami – but what a servant he was.

Not a lot of real choice here for Shawcross’ partner with a lot of Stoke’s better defenders being non-English, so we’ll go for Ryan Shotton here.

Born and raised in Stoke, Shotton spent a lot of time out on loan from the club but he was given a chance by Tony Pulis and between 2011 and 2013 made 48 appearances in the Premier League.

Shotton wasn’t exactly one of Stoke’s stars during that time and his performances were inconsistent, however he was still a useful player to have in the squad and after departing the club in 2014 he went on to have a good career in the Championship.

Another position with not a great deal to choose from, we must travel back to the latter end of the time-frame for this squad with a lot of Stoke’s more recent good left-backs being from abroad.

Danny Higginbotham probably would have taken this if he wasn’t capped by Gibraltar, but the man who was the starting left-back for Stoke before his arrival in 2008 takes this in Carl Dickinson.

The Stoke academy graduate made his breakthrough into the senior side in the 2006-07 season and kept his place for the following campaign, which is when Stoke finished second in the Championship to gain promotion to the Premier League.

Dickinson rarely featured in the top flight and eventually moved on to Watford but he was still a fan favourite in the brief time he was a regular starter at Stoke.

Another area of the pitch where Stoke haven’t exactly been blessed with English talent – despite having his problems Pennant did some good for the club despite being eventually bombed out.

After joining in 2010, Pennant played 89 times for the Potters and was a part of their Europa League campaign in 2011-12, picking up 18 assists in his first two seasons with the club.

Things did end up going downhill for the former England international though after he was replaced by Michael Kightly in 2012, but Pennant did at least make an impact in the short-term and that’s why he has been included in this line-up.

Even though in this time-frame he only took part in one season for Stoke, Russell was a regular for the Potters since 2003 but it was his final season with the club where he stood out.

Russell was a real battler in midfield but it was in his final season at the Potters in 2006-07 where he stood out under returning manager Tony Pulis, with Russell scoring seven goals that season in the Championship whilst being named the league’s Player of the Month for November.

Russell ended up returning to Norwich City following the conclusion of the 2006-07 campaign, and whilst this spot could’ve gone to Sam Clucas who netted 11 times in the season before last, we felt as though the Stoke team of 15 years ago needed some recognition before they exploded into the big time.

Whitehead had been a Premier League regular with Sunderland before he joined Stoke in 2009 – he was a midfielder who was a leader and was just generally all-round solid but never did anything too flashy.

For four straight top flight seasons, Whitehead was a regular in and around Stoke’s side but he did eventually lose his place in the engine room permanently to Irishman Glenn Whelan but was always useful to have on the bench.

The midfield is again an area of the pitch where non-English players have populated for Stoke for many of the last 15 years but that isn’t to discredit Whitehead as he was a reliable figure in the City team.

After starring for West Ham for six years, Stoke signed Etherington in 2009 and he would hold down the left-wing spot for a number of years for Tony Pulis, becoming one of the Welshman’s trusted starters.

Etherington played 177 times in all competitions for Stoke, scoring 16 times and because of his accurate crossing ability also notched 38 assists for the Potters and was a key part in the club becoming a solid mid-table Premier League team.

Etherington’s career did come to a halt in his early 30’s though as a persistent back injury cut short his career, but he was one of those underrated players for Stoke who probably had more talent than some neutrals realised and his left foot was a real miss after he departed the club.

Due to the lack of Stoke’s really good English strikers, we’ve opted for a man who is still currently playing for the Potters and based on natural talent is probably one of the best in the Championship right now.

You don’t earn a £6 million move to Man United as a teenager if you’re not talented however it didn’t work out for Powell at Old Trafford – however after a spell at Wigan he joined Stoke in 2019.

His debut season was quiet on the whole but he exploded into life last season, scoring 12 goals in 39 games and became Stoke’s leading man going forward – his performances earning him the club’s Player of the Year award.

Fans will be hoping that Powell remains at the bet365 Stadium for a little while longer to perhaps get the club into a play-off place next season.

There’s only one striker who could fill this role and that is Crouchy himself.

Whilst many of Stoke’s forwards over the years have been from overseas, Crouch stood firm for eight years and battled with them all and was always a good option whether it was as a starter or a substitute.

Crouch scored 62 times for the Potters in 261 appearances and played well into his late 30’s with the club, and considering he cost a club record £12 million in 2011 he was always expected to score and he delivered on his price-tag.

Crouch even remained at the club for the first half of the 2018-19 Championship season, but he eventually left for Burnley and retired shortly thereafter.

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