Five players Stoke City should sign

Sports Mole selects five players that may be of interest to new Stoke City manager Mark Hughes.

It will be all change as far as Stoke City are concerned next season. Having been at the club since 2006 and overseen their elevation to an established Premier League side, Tony Pulis has decided to call it a day.

While his side's direct style of play had been often criticised by opposition supporters, as the Potters slid dangerously close to relegation trouble last term, some of Pulis's own fans had started to call for new ideas.

The man charged with the task of altering things is Mark Hughes, who has a point to prove after quite frankly a disastrous stint with Queens Park Rangers. He's already acquired left-back Erik Pieters, but more signings are needed.

With that in mind, Sports Mole has compiled a list of five players that may help Stoke improve upon their 13th-placed finish during the most recent campaign.

Danny Rose, Tottenham Hotspur

It seems that one of the first things that Hughes noticed when he arrived at the Britannia Stadium was that he needed a left-back. Swift action was taken in the form of Dutch international Pieters, who was recently signed for a reported £3.5m.

So why Rose? After all, while he was impressive on loan at Sunderland last season, he played in the same position as Pieters. Surely he isn't needed, is he?

Well, the England Under-21 international actually started his career as an attacking player. Even though he has been asked to take up a more defensive role of late, he showed at times for the Black Cats that he can still be a threat when in the opposition's half.

There is no reason why Rose couldn't revert to type in a Stoke shirt and play in front of Pieters. If reports are to be believed, Spurs would accept a bid in the region of £6m for the 22-year-old.

What's more, we all remember that goal against Arsenal, don't we?

Danny Rose and Nathaniel Clyne on December 22, 2012© PA Photos

Tom Huddlestone, Tottenham Hotspur

It's no secret that Pulis was a fan of the industrious midfielder. The likes of Glenn Whelan and Steven N'Zonzi would give blood for the cause, but with the greatest of respect, they are not the best footballers that the world has ever seen.

Also, if Charlie Adam is your most creative midfielder, then a fresh face or two wouldn't go amiss. Yes the Scottish international has a good left foot and can take a decent corner, but his lack of mobility in the centre of the pitch often sees him caught in possession.

While some will argue, quite rightly, that Huddlestone is not the most agile of players, there is more about him than Adam. He's capable of producing long cross-field passes, but at the same time can keep the game simple.

At 6'3", there is also a physical presence about Huddlestone that means he can get his foot in when required. He has suffered from more than his fair share of injuries and while that would make recruiting him a risk, it should mean that he is available relatively cheaply from Spurs.

With proven quality in both feet, perhaps it is worth the gamble.

Tom Huddlestone congratulates Clint Dempsey after scoring the opener on December 9, 2012© PA Photos

Adel Taarabt, Queens Park Rangers

During the Pulis regime, Stoke rarely played with a man in the hole - someone that linked the midfield and centre-forwards.

In contrast, Hughes has showed that he is not adverse to given his players the freedom to roam. The likes of Robinho and Craig Bellamy did it at Manchester City, while David Bentley took on the role at Blackburn Rovers.

At QPR, more often than not, Taarabt was handed that responsibility. Yes the Moroccan international can drive you up the wall, but when he is good - he's very good.

During Hughes's brief spell at Loftus Road, Taarabt was probably his best player, which indicates that the Welsh boss may be able to get the best out of the maverick.

He's not the sort of footballer that Stoke fans will have been used to and they like each member of their team to work hard. He might not be a 110% man, but Taarabt has the ability that can win football matches.

Nikica Jelavic, Everton

When you consider the fact that Stoke scored just 34 times in 38 matches last season, it's a minor miracle that they will be turning out in the Premier League next year.

You can dress that up any way you like but it isn't good enough and it is doubtful that they would get away with a similar return next time around.

So why sign someone like Jelavic, who struggled for goals so much at times last campaign that it looked painful. He scored just eight times in all competitions, although that still would have made him Stoke's joint second highest scorer!

While it is hard to put a finger on the reasoning behind Jelavic's barren spell, he showed upon his arrival from Rangers to Everton that he knew where the net was.

It remains to be seen if he will be part of Roberto Martinez's plans at Goodison Park, but if he isn't, Stoke could do a lot worse. Maybe a change of scenery could help the Croatian international rediscover his clinical touch.

Nikica Jelavic© PA Photos

Charlie Austin, Burnley

The jump from the Championship to the top flight is a big one, there can be no doubting that. However, it is a leap that you can make a success of - Stoke being the prime example.

When they were promoted in 2008, Pulis's men proved the doubters wrong and were able to preserve their status, finishing in a more than respectable 12th position.

Someone else that has done his fair share of defying the odds during his career his Austin. The 23-year-old was knocking up in non-league when he was picked up by Swindon Town in 2009. A return of 37 goals in 67 outings attracted Burnley's attention and the frontman has continued his impressive ratio with 45 strikes from his 90 appearances for the Clarets.

Such statistics, coupled with the fact that his contract will be up in the summer of 2014, has resulted in speculation that he will be on the move to a Premier League side very soon.

The Stoke faithful may want proven quality at their level, but that will cost big money. It's fair to conclude that Austin won't be presented with as many chances that he has enjoyed in the Football League, but that is no reason to suggest that he won't convert the ones that are created for him.

He got 28 for Burnley last season and even if you cut that in half for Stoke next year, that's an impressive tally. Stoke's leading goalscorer was Jonathan Walters on 11 and he didn't always feature as a striker.

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PSV Eindhoven player Erik Pieters during his sides friendly with Nottingham Forest on July 27, 2011
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