Peter Crouch says he has “unfinished business” at Stoke City and would have no problem playing in the Championship this season.
Stoke’s 10-year stay in the Premier League was brought to an end in May, but so far the Potters have managed to retain their key assets, even convincing Joe Allen to sign a new contract.
Xherdan Shaqiri and Badou Ndiaye are among those who are expected to move on, but odds on Jack Butland remaining at the Bet365 Stadium appear to be shortening, while captain Ryan Shawcross and January signing Moritz Bauer could soon join Allen in signing new contracts.
And now Crouch has suggested he too is likely to remain at the club and play in the Championship for the first time since a loan spell with Norwich City in 2003.
“I feel like there is unfinished business for me at Stoke,” the 37-year-old told Planet Football.
“I still have a year left on my contract and while I don’t know what is going to happen in the next few weeks, I’d have no problem playing in the Championship next season and trying to get the club back into the Premier League at the first attempt.
“Stoke have a wonderful set of fans, a great set-up in so many areas of the club, and it is a club that should be in the Premier League.
“Hopefully I am one of those who get the chance to Stoke back where they belong next season.”
Stoke conceded the joint most amount of goals in the Premier League on their way to relegation last season, but Crouch believes a lack of quality at the other end was equally as much to blame.
The Potters sold Marko Arnautovic for a club-record fee of up to £25million last summer, but Mark Hughes chose to reinvest the funds on defensive reinforcements, with only free signing Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and loanee Jesé added to the forward ranks.
“It was a difficult season for a number of reasons,” Crouch says. “The big factor for me was that we lost some good players from our squad and didn’t replace them properly.
“Some of the lads that were digging us out of games over the previous couple of years were gone and we didn’t have any answers when things started to go badly wrong last season.
“There was a lack of goals in the team, and while you can say the strikers are to blame for that, there are other reasons why we were not scoring goals. You need the service as a striker and maybe that wasn’t there enough, but what has gone has gone now.
“We also lost a very good manager in Mark Hughes and that was difficult for the club, but I would never have anything but good things to say about Stoke.
“The record confirms that I have played more times for Stoke than any other club in my career and I’ve loved every minute of my time there, even when it was tough at times last season.”
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By Kevin Palmer