Sentinel Playerwatch - Transfer Window Day 21: Pulis eyes star-spangled recruits
THERE was a mystical interview with Tony Pulis in the aftermath of promotion in 2008 when he spoke of an untapped land of elite footballers.
He painted a picture of a football equivalent of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, where giant strikers and centre-backs who can play at left-back roam free.
Stoke, he suggested, could be the team to draw from this magical well.
It sounded like Pulis had a map and probably a whip in his back pocket ready to see off any interfering Nazis who were looking for a defensive midfielder on the cheap.
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It would be Dave Kemp and the Raiders of the Lost 'Aard Workhouse.
Somewhere in Africa surely? Perhaps the Potters could pilfer Senegal, where Salif Diao runs his own sports academy? Maybe there was a new Niall Quinn at the source of the Nile?
Yet all was quiet on this Eden for four years until the arrival of Geoff "Geoff Who?" Cameron from Houston Dynamo started to turn heads last summer, while Pulis shunned Austria for a pre-season tour on the other side of the Atlantic.
The dust settled as model professional Cameron passed away his first few months at the Britannia Stadium until the airwaves were filled by Matt Sandoz and the Temple of Doom-mongers after Stoke lost at Swansea on Saturday.
There was breaking gossip. City's scouts, it was revealed, had been back in Texas on the trail of another American, Brek Shea, from FC Dallas.
Sure, a third US international, Maurice Edu, has not worked out but could we now have found this land aplenty, where every young player drinks from the Holy Grail of Diao DNA to emerge hungry, defensively disciplined and mega-fit?
If it is, and Stoke can pull off another bargain through negotiations with the Major League Soccer board then others will soon be following their lead.
It is easy to imagine Pulis dipping his transfer stick across the pond a few times in the next 12 months before putting his hand under the sliding rock to rescue his baseball cap, a millisecond before it shuts forever.
What about Shea? What do we know? Who do we ask?
American network NBC told Marc Stein – not Mark Stein, but Marc Stein – to have a look at the winger-or-forward to see if he could become a left-back.
Stein and his co-host Steve Davis – not that Steve Davis or the other Steve Davis – brought in NBC Sport pundit Taylor Twellman for his thoughts.
Davis said: "I'm not so sure the conversion of Shea to fullback would be imminent.
"It is precisely because manager Tony Pulis and the Potters have been able to remain in the Premiership with a doctrine of defence-first that I don't think the young left winger is bound for a move backward in the arrangement.
"He's certainly ok at the defensive tracking of a midfielder, but he's not a natural fullback, which means he is not packaged up with a defenders' instincts and tendencies.
"So, why would Pulis and Co. trust a midfielder to a responsibility that is so valued, so absolutely essential, around the Stoke City grounds?"
Twellman disagrees and thinks Pulis might be thinking about asking Shea to become an "outside back".
"For all the positive elements in the young man's game, his audacity, his ranginess, his combination of speed, power and explosiveness … Shea's numbers tell the story of an attacker who perhaps does not always make the best connections in the final third," he argues.
"Perhaps he would be better running at defenders from a different set of starting points, with a different set of choices?"
The United States: The land of the free (transfer) and the home of the brave (piece of defending).