Stoke City: Peter Crouch still struggling after mouth injury, Tony Pulis reveals
TONY Pulis admits Peter Crouch's ugly mouth injury has taken a heavy toll on the former England striker.
Crouch lost several teeth and his place in the Stoke attack during a clash with Newcastle defender Fabricio Coloccini on November 28, and still requires further corrective surgery.
Pulis said Crouch's two starts in the FA Cup ties against Crystal Palace were valuable to his rehabilitation, but he remains some distance from his true self in terms of form and fitness.
"I'm pleased we got another hour out of him the other night and that will help," said the Stoke manager.
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"He's still got problems and he's still got to get those sorted out because if he gets another bang in the mouth it would be a worry."
Crouch has lost his place to Swansea target Kenwyne Jones, who has shown an impressive return to form.
Pulis has praised Jones's resurgence – but doesn't believe he's back to his best yet.
Jones has attracted attention, not least from Swansea following their recent £3m bid for his services, after bagging four goals in 10 games since re-claiming his old spot in attack.
But Pulis, pictured below, believes he still has to improve to match his best form as a Stoke player since his £8m move from Sunderland in August 2010.
"Kenwyne's best spell was early on with us, and that was an outstanding spell," Pulis contested.
He is expected to select Jones today to face suitors Swansea, but said he would still need a little heart-to-heart with the big striker to ensure the recent transfer talk had not got to him.
"I will see what he's like," said Pulis in the wake of Stoke's rejection of the £3m bid.
Stoke are now waiting to see whether Swansea can match their valuation of nearer £4.5m as the Welsh club seeks a replacement for Danny Graham ahead of his probable departure in the January transfer window.
Swansea boss Michael Laudrup acknowledged that today's fixture had been spiced up by talk of Graham leaving and Jones coming in as his replacement.
Laudrup declined to comment directly on his pursuit of Jones, but acknowledged: "It gives the game a little bit more because of the rumours about this and that, but I can guarantee you Danny will be playing with Swansea and Jones will play for Stoke.
"He (Jones) is strong, quite fast, very good in the air and he makes good movements.
"He has scored some goals recently and been in good form.
"He is keeping Crouch out of the team, so that means he is doing well.
"In football you can have spells of form like that – and some players grow when they play a lot of consecutive games."
SWANSEA said last night that the Liberty Stadium pitch is in perfect condition and they expect this afternoon's game against Stoke to beat the big freeze.
STOKE'S Premier League trip to Everton on Saturday, March 30 is now a 5.30pm kick-off to accommodate live TV coverage on ESPN.