Stoke City: Matthew Etherington told he has big future at Potters
MATTHEW Etherington has been assured he still has a productive future at Stoke City, despite his recent eclipse.
The 31-year-old winger has started just one Premier League game since Michael Kightly's arrival from Wolves in the summer.
He admitted earlier this year that his form had fallen below his usual high standards.
But now manager Tony Pulis has insisted Etherington will add plenty more appearances to the 134 next to his name since arriving from West Ham in January 2009.
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"Matty has had a dip in form," Pulis acknowledged, "and there are lot of reasons why players can lose form.
"But over the past couple of weeks in training he's really looked back to his best and I for one can't wait to get him back into the team.
"Irrespective of what people might be saying, Matty has got a massive future at this football club.
"A fit, dynamic and athletic Matthew Etherington is something we haven't got elsewhere in the squad.
"His ability to run with the ball, let alone his crossing ability and his value at set pieces, has been something crucial to the team over the years."
But Pulis hinted he is unlikely to squeeze Etherington into Saturday's starting line-up against Swansea after utilising Kightly and Jon Walters on the flanks in recent weeks.
"The team has been playing well," he stated, "so at the moment it is difficult to change it."
And after seeing Walters recover from the four-inch gash left by David Luiz's challenge at Chelsea, and Geoff Cameron slot in so capably for the suspended Andy Wilkinson at right-back, Pulis seems certain to remain loyal to the 11 starting at Stamford Bridge as Stoke seek a first win of the season when they take on Swansea (3pm).
Pulis also believes Peter Crouch's on-going contribution to both the team and the football club can be easily overlooked following the recent publicity surrounding the arrivals of Michael Owen and Charlie Adam.
"All the new lads are settling in and buying in to what we are doing at Stoke City," added Pulis, "but for me Peter was a real marquee signing when we bought him last year.
"He's the one who really lifted the bar for us at that time – and he has since gone on to prove why we were so keen to bring him in.
"I think his performances this season have also been absolutely fantastic, while everyone can see and hear what our supporters think of him."