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Thursday, September 27, 2012
Etherington set for Stoke return

David Instone

Stoke City manager Tony Pulis has reassured Matthew Etherington that he is in contention for a return to the club's starting line-up.

Etherington, 31, has been playing second fiddle to summer signing Michael Kightly on the left wing, starting in only one Premier League game this season, away to Reading on the opening day of the season.

Kightly, 26, opened the scoring at the Madejski Stadium on his debut, but is more naturally right-sided and the manager is known to favour the balance the left-footed Etherington brings to his team.

Pulis is convinced the former West Ham man is on his way back to his best and has opened the door for a return to the first team.

"Matty has had a dip in form and there are lot of reasons why that can happen," Pulis said. "But, over the past couple of weeks in training, he has really looked back to his best and I can't wait to get him back into the team.

"Irrespective of what people might be saying, Matty has got a massive future at this football club. A fit, dynamic and athletic Matthew Etherington is something we haven't got elsewhere in the squad. His ability to run with the ball, let alone his crossing ability and his value at set pieces, has been something crucial to the team over the years."

However, the signs are that Etherington, who has made 134 appearances for the club, might have to wait a little longer for a full comeback.

Pulis has suggested he may keep faith with Kightly and Jonathan Walters on the wings for Saturday's vital home game against Swansea.

Stoke are still win-less following a punishing run of games against the big hitters but the manager believes they have been playing well so does not want to mix things up.

"The team have been playing well, so, at the moment, it is difficult to change it," he added.

Walters, 29, has recovered from the four-inch gash to his leg that resulted from a wild challenge by Chelsea's David Luiz.

Behind Walters at full-back, USA international Geoff Cameron has proved a capable stand-in for the banned Andy Wilkinson, so changes are not on the cards.

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