Shay Given’s hopes of proving his fitness to Martin O’Neill ahead of Euro 2016 are in the balance after Stoke boss Mark Hughes again came out in support of goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard.
Hughes is considering his selection options for Monday’s clash with Tottenham. Haugaard has replaced the injured Jack Butland in the last two games — his first appearances in the Premier League — and conceded six goals in the process.
After the first of those matches, a 2-2 home draw with Swansea, Hughes stood by his decision to select the 23-year-old Dane ahead of veteran Shay Given, describing Haugaard’s performance as “excellent”.
Since then, the 4-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday has led to speculation over whether 39-year-old Given might come into the first XI for the visit of title-chasing Spurs to the Britannia Stadium.
Hughes did not rule out a change but pointed to the example of former Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who conceded seven in his first appearance for the club before becoming a star performer, as he gave Haugaard further backing.
“Jakob has had a run in the side and we talked about the game last week,” Hughes said.
“We discussed all elements of it and for the most part I have been pleased with what he has done.
“He is a young goalkeeper, and he is learning about the Premier League. You have to experience it before you understand the intensity, so that is why it was right to give him the opportunity.
“Some of the guys were talking about the time that Asmir Begovic started to get games in the Premier League at Stoke. He had difficult games that didn’t go quite to plan, but you see how he has come through.
“A little bit of focus has been on that position, but I’m quite comfortable with where we are with it.
“As always, I have the benefit of good goalkeepers in the building, so if I decide to make a change, then I’m quite comfortable with that.
“But at the moment, Jakob needs the experience and the opportunity to play.”
Stoke hope to have forward Marko Arnautovic and Ireland midfielder Glenn Whelan available for the Tottenham match after they missed the Liverpool defeat due to knee and back problems respectively.
Captain Ryan Shawcross is also expected to be able to feature after he made his return to action at Anfield from a lay-off with a back issue of his own.
But fellow defender Marc Muniesa is a doubt having suffered a knock in training, and full-back Erik Pieters cannot play as he begins a two-match suspension for picking up 10 yellow cards.
Hughes believes everyone should feel comfortable with the integrity of referees, no matter which team they support, after it emerged Leicester-based Kevin Friend had been switched from taking charge of Tottenham’s Barclays Premier League match at the Britannia Stadium on Monday night.
The Professional Game Match Officials Limited said the change was made to avoid adding an “extra scrutiny on the refereeing appointment” around Friend, who lives in Leicester and has been to games at the King Power Stadium.
“My take on it is that the integrity of the referees should stop that happening or anybody having any doubts about that anyway, but it is what it is.”
Premier League Manager of the season
Premier League Player of the season
Premier League Flops of the Season
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved