Robbie Earle: Here's my Stoke transfer targets for next season
YOU can bet Stoke City will already be looking at players they could add to their squad this summer.
Here are six players I reckon would be canny acquisitions for the Potters. What's more, none would break the bank and, in line with Stoke's more recent deals, four of them are younger players who should increase in value.
PETER ODEMWINGIE (West Brom)
Last seen in QPR's car park as his efforts to force a move to Loftus Road collapsed on deadline day.
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Not flavour of the month at West Brom and looks certain to move on in the summer, although his deadline-day antics will count against him with some.
However, the 31-year-old could qualify as one of Tony Pulis's 'Battersea Dogs Home' signings. Stoke could give him a fresh start and in return get a versatile forward capable of 15 to 20 goals a season. What's more, he offers the pace the Potters have sometimes lacked.
WILL HUGHES (Derby County)
A bit of a gamble maybe, but people whose opinion I trust tell me this midfielder is the real deal.
He has the potential to be a Jack Wilshere-style midfielder and is already earning rave reviews in the Championship, even though he doesn't turn 18 until April.
I think he'll eventually play for a top-six Premier League club, but if he moved to one of those sides now, he'd be stuck in the reserves or out on loan.
Stoke, however, have lacked a little creativity in their midfield and Hughes would provide that.
So, City could offer him regular Premier League football within the next couple of years.
Stoke could give him the chance to grow for the next four or five years, then sell him on at a profit when a bigger club comes in.
HARRY FORRESTER (Brentford)
Former England youth player who was at Aston Villa, but is now making his name in League One with Brentford.
The 22-year-old can play wide or in the link role between midfield and attack where Stoke have been using Charlie Adam.
This lad looks very sound technically and can deliver a dangerous set-piece.
When Brentford played Chelsea in the FA Cup he didn't look out of place against the Chelsea boys. He'll know the Midlands having been at Villa and I'm sure would jump at the chance of another crack at the Premier League.
ALEX SMITHIES (Huddersfield)
Goalkeepers won't be high on Stoke's priorities following the signing of Jack Butland in January.
However, I'd have Smithies on my reserve list in case Asmir Begovic leaves for a Champions League club in the summer and Stoke decide to let Thomas Sorensen or Carlo Nash go.
Huddersfield keeper Smithies is only 22, but has already played 150 games for his club.
He's got a good presence in goal, is an excellent shot-stopper and is a confident lad who organises his defence well.
He wouldn't look out of place at a Premier League club.
MAYNOR FIGUEROA (Wigan)
This one depends on Wigan finally losing their annual relegation battle.
If the Latics go down, then Stoke should look seriously at this lad, who would fill Stoke's problem left-back spot.
The Honduran has also played in a back three or as a wing-back so is certainly a versatile footballer. He's very good going forward, but knows his job defensively and fits the strong, athletic profile that Stoke like.
What's more, he could always chip in with a goal or two like the one he scored from the halfway line against Stoke in 2009.
He'll be 30 in the summer so isn't a long-term investment, but he's good enough to be made an exception to that policy.
GRANT HANLEY (Blackburn)
A big lump... and I mean that in the best possible way.
He's only 21, but the Scot is an old-fashioned centre-back who likes to get his head in where it hurts and doesn't mind collecting a bruise or two along the way.
He's a big lad who might not look too athletic, but actually he can cover ground well.
Any new centre-back at Stoke will have a battle getting into the starting line-up because of the excellent partnership between Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth.
However, Hanley is young enough to bide his time and to be developed as an eventual successor to one of those two.
Stoke have looked at his central defensive partner Scott Dann, but I reckon Hanley would be the better deal.