STOKE CITY took their FA Cup preparations to the impressive new St George’s Park National Football Centre . . . and gave several squad members some valuable match action as part of the visit to Burton-upon-Trent.
As well as using the fantastic facilities on their doorstep for a training session ahead of the FA Cup fourth round meeting with champions Manchester City, they also played a ‘behind-closed-doors’ friendly against Derby County.
Among those who featured in the game were Michael Owen, fresh from his goalscoring cameo at the end of the Potters’ Premier League match at Swansea, and Jermaine Pennant who recently returned from a loan spell at Wolves.
Another returning loanee Mama Sidibe, back from his spell at Sheffield Wednesday, lined up with Owen in City’s attack in the first half.
Other squad members included in the first half action were Wilson Palacios, Michael Kightly, Matthew Upson, Rory Delap and Ryan Shotton, and in the case of the latter two it marked a return to action after injury lay-offs.
The setting was the elite Wembley replica pitch at the impressive £105million St George’s Park, the Potters having availed themselves of the excellent facilities during the harsh wintry weather affecting the country this week.
City’s management team took the decision to hold a morning training session at the 330-acre facility near Burton-upon-Trent followed by the friendly match against their Midlands neighbours on the undersoil heated Desso pitch.
The second-half started with fresh personnel made up mainly of Under-21 players and with a smartly taken goal by James Alabi, but County equalised later in the game to come away with a share of the spoils as both sides made the most of the facilities.
Manager Tony Pulis was more than happy with how the day went, commenting: “It has been great to come here this week because of the weather conditions.
“We have been well looked after today, and I am really impressed with the facilities that they have got here and would look to visit again in the future if we can.”