Stoke City: Michael Owen and co will raise bar says Matthew Etherington
MATTHEW Etherington says Stoke's established players will up their game now that Tony Pulis has added Michael Owen to his strongest ever Premier League squad.
Etherington is back in training and available for Saturday's home game with Manchester City after missing Stoke's last two league matches because of a hamstring injury.
The 31-year-old winger has been a regular in the Stoke side ever since joining the club in January 2009, but can't take his place for granted as he competes with new boy Michael Kightly, Jermaine Pennant and possibly Jon Walters for a starting place out wide.
Etherington said: "Competition for places is great now. No one is guaranteed their place, which is always good. It is a big season for us this year.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
"With the squad we have we should do well. It is up to us to go and do it on the pitch, but we have no excuses with the squad we have.
"That is what you want. You don't want to become complacent and know you have a starting place every week.
"You want competition and someone to push you – and that's what we have in every position now."
Stoke are assessing Owen to see whether the 32-year-old former Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle and Manchester United striker could play against the champions on Saturday, most likely as a substitute.
Etherington says Owen, who has scored 259 career goals, is a tremendous addition to the squad.
He added: "He has played for some great clubs and hopefully he can give something to Stoke as well. I am sure he still has another couple of years in him and can score some goals for us.
"His record speaks for itself. He has scored goals wherever he has gone.
"He is an out-and-out goalscorer and, if he stays fit, he will be a great signing."
Etherington says the rest of the Stoke squad should also be able to learn from Owen off the field as well as on it.
He added: "He's been at some of the best clubs in the world, and we can only learn from players who have been at those sorts of clubs and the way they handle themselves."
Etherington is keeping his fingers crossed he is in the squad to face a Manchester City side he sees as favourites to win the league again.
He said: "It's been mixed emotions against them because we have had some good results against them at home, but lost to them in the FA Cup final.
"It's going to be a tough game because they are a great side with great players."
MAMA Sidibe scored Stoke's only goal as the reserves lost 4-1 at home to Fleetwood Town in the Central League Cup yesterday.
Senior players Danny Higginbotham, Carlo Nash and Diego Arismendi also played in the game at Clayton Wood.