TONY PULIS has dropped his strongest hint yet that winger Matthew Etherington could be in line for a recall to the starting line-up for this weekend's Barclays Premier League clash against Norwich City at Carrow Road.
The 31-year-old winger hasn't started a game for the Potters since the opening day draw with Reading, however, he has impressed from the bench during the side's last three outings against Liverpool, Manchester United and Sunderland.
That form could be enough to see him included in the line-up against the in-form Canaries, according to the City boss, who was speaking at the pre-match press conference on Thursday afternoon.
"I thought he was very good last Saturday, but even in the couple of games before that when he has been brought on he has looked like he is getting nearer to the levels we all know he is capable of.
"He's very, very close to us thinking about starting with him again. He certainly comes into consideration for this weekend's game.
"I'm pleased he played well against Sunderland. Matty needs to be loved and I think he felt that love on Saturday. The crowd just love him when he runs at people and hopefully he can now get back to what he was a year ago."
Meanwhile, Andy Wilkinson remains the hot favourite to step into the side and take up the currently vacant left back spot, after Marc Wilson suffered a broken leg during last weekend's Britannia Stadium stalemate with Sunderland.
The Stone-born defender came on as the Republic of Ireland international's replacement and appeared to have done enough during his cameo role to suggest that it will be he who gets the nod to start against the Canaries.
"Andy has been absolutely fantastic for this Football Club, and he is more than capable of coming in and doing a good job for us at left-back," added Pulis.
"Obviously, we will miss Marc because for me he has been our best defender this season. He is a very under-rated lad and he has immense quality on the ball.
"He looks likely to be out for at least three-months, but with the fitness staff we have here, who always overachieve, touch wood, he could be back a little quicker than that."
The City boss also revealed that he faces a central midfield selection dilemma with the news that Glenn Whelan has returned to full training following a hamstring injury.
"Glenn is back in contention now which is good news for us. Him and Deano (Dean Whitehead) are battling it out for that spot in the team, but they are good friends off the pitch, so it is a good battle between them."