Belfast Telegraph

Whelan in contention for Potters

Stoke boss Tony Pulis hopes Glenn Whelan will be fit enough to make his return for the Potters when they take on Sunderland this Saturday.

Whelan, who picked up a hamstring injury against Liverpool earlier this month, has returned to training after he missed the Republic of Ireland's World Cup qualification games and Stoke's 4-2 defeat by Manchester United last weekend.

"We will see how Glenn is between now and kick-off," Pulis said. "He has had this injury for a couple of weeks now and we are hoping to get him back into things again."

Pulis added: "He has returned to training again today having not trained during the rest of the week, so we will have another look at him tomorrow and then assess what we are going to do on Saturday."

Whelan's return could mean Michael Owen might be demoted from the bench. Owen was a substitute against former club United last weekend but Pulis denies he sees him only as a bit-part or impact player.

"Michael came on and was unlucky not to score as Robin Van Persie made a good clearance," Pulis said. "He's got better, he's got stronger again, but it's time and we'll use Michael as we'll use Matty Etherington and Deano (Dean Whitehead) and people like that.

"Everything will be down to what we think is right for the team. It won't be down to the individual. The most important thing is that we get him to a level of fitness so if or when he does start he gets through it and onto the next game. I'm not saying he's going to be an impact player. I'm hoping he will play a big part but we have to get him fit first."

Stoke are now approaching a much more appealing run of fixtures after a tough start to the season. The Potters have already faced Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United but will now embark on a less daunting-looking sequence of fixtures - Sunderland, Norwich, QPR, West Ham and Fulham.

However, despite the calibre of opposition so early in the season, Pulis thinks his side are worth more than the eight points they have on the board.

"We're disappointed we haven't picked up more points because I think our performances have been better than the return of points that we have got," Pulis said. "But we've done very well. What we need is to get a few results now and push on from there."

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