What might have been

Posted by James Whittaker

Chris Brunskill/Getty ImagesMuch to the frustration of Stoke supporters, Charlie Adam spends more time on the bench than on the pitch.

Lack of creativity in Stoke's play is not a new thing, but there is one player who can feel justifiably frustrated having been brought in for exactly to address that lack of creativity and who now finds himself the latest talent to be frozen out.

Charlie Adam made a storming entrance to his Stoke career, appearing from the subs bench against Wigan at the JJB, taking control of the tie as the fulcrum of the Potters' efforts moving forward. He popped up everywhere, dictating tempo and spraying passes in a role akin to that which led to him being nominated as the Premier League Player of the Year during his time at Blackpool.

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Some point to that excellent performance as being a result of Adam not yet having been indoctrinated into the ways of his current manager, a man who puts shape and work ethic above all else. And since Adam has not been given time in the same role since and unsurprisingly failed in a forward role, it would appear that his days at Stoke are now numbered. Knowing the impact Adam can have in this league, coupled with the glimpses we have seen, makes it all the more frustrating that he remains on the bench while Glenn Whelan continues to flounder alongside another increasingly frustrated talent in Steven N'Zonzi.

Tony Pulis has suggested that the reason Adam isn't featuring is somehow related to the sad and untimely death of his father, and while this no doubt knocked Adam for six at the time, I think it's starting to become an excuse for the manager to cling in having failed to accommodate the talented Scot. I think Pulis saw how much Peter Crouch struggled in his first season with Jonathan Walters behind him and saw Adam as a budget version of Rafael van der Vaart, the attacking midfielder so successful alongside Crouch during his time at Spurs. There are some obvious problems with that logic, though: Adam isn't an attacking midfielder, Crouch is a year or two older and most importantly, Spurs had Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale on the flanks with overlapping fullbacks providing additional support.

While Adam managed to get himself a couple of goals from his deep striker position, it's clear to all that attempting to shoehorn him in there has been an unmitigated disaster. Given the "fact" that he struggles in a midfield two, it would appear that Adam has run out of places he can play in Pulis' system. In yet another frustrating glimmer of hope, we actually witnessed a change to that system for the visit of Wigan; Adam was allowed to take up his preferred position in a middle three and he looked a lot more comfortable, as did Crouch as he had full time support up top, albeit in the form of Walters. Unfortunately the manager lacked strength in his convictions to see that revised shape through and as soon as Wigan scored, Adam and N'Zonzi were withdrawn as he reverted to a negative and fearful type.

And so Adam now finds himself a permanent fixture on the bench, alongside a number of other players who could improve the starting eleven as Stoke stumble towards Pulis' ultimate goal of 40 points while desperate for inspiration. It's increasingly unlikely that he will be given any chance to inspire or excel in his favoured position, despite him, again, staking his claim by creating the best effort of the match against West Ham in the small time he was on the pitch. Another player seemingly purchased with little idea of how he would be utilised therefore looks set to depart leaving the fans to wonder, as they have with many players before him, what might have been.

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