Tony Pulis added another wide man to Stoke City’s ranks earlier this week after snapping up Michael Kightly for a fee believed to be in the region of £2m. The 26-year-old arrives at the Britannia on a long-term deal from neighbours Wolves and is expected to push for a starting role in the upcoming campaign:
Having tasted relegation with the Molineux outfit only a matter of months ago, Kightly was clearly a relieved man to be given another bite of the Premier League cherry. Speaking to the Potters’ official website upon completion of the move, he enthused:
It’s a great club; an established Premier League club, so I am delighted to be here. Any footballer wants to play at the highest level and I am grateful to Stoke for giving me the chance to stay in the Premier League. The Club sold itself to me. What they have achieved over the past few years has been remarkable. Then there’s the excellent facilities and, of course, the supporters. So, it’s definitely a Club that is moving in the right direction.
Kightly began his career in the Tottenham youth ranks but returned to hometown club Basildon United after being released by the London outfit. Having scored 11 goals in 18 matches, he caught the eye of Southend United and was handed a two-year deal in 2003 but struggled to make any sort of impact. Over 13 games, the winger failed to find the net and was farmed out to Farnborough Town but his temporary spell was largely underwhelming; no goals in 11 games saw him return to Southend, where he was released by then-boss Steve Tilson.
Greys Athletic then came to the rescue ahead of the 2005-06 campaign. Over his season-and-a-half at the club, Kightly finally began to produce the goods; 52 games harvested 24 goals and earned a loan move to Wolves where, after notching twice in his first five matches, he signed a permanent deal. The winger’s first three seasons at Molineux hinted at huge potential; he returned 20 goals and 30 assists over 80 appearances, with the 2008/09 campaign alone producing eight goals and 19 assists, but since then, his game time has been dramatically reduced by injury. Ankle and metatarsal problems have limited Kightly to just 31 games for Wolves in the past three seasons, where he returned four goals and a couple of assists. A four-month loan spell at Watford midway through last term saw him find the net three times in 12 games before returning to the midlands club in January 2012.
With a mere 36 goals to their name last season, the Potters were the lowest scorers in the Premier League and Pulis revealed Kightly’s acquisition was a major factor in addressing this statistic. Attacking threat from the flanks was somewhat diminished in 2011/12 – Matthew Etherington scored three times while Jermaine Pennant failed to find the net at all, a factor their manager acknowledged:
There is nothing better than to have strong competition in all areas of the squad and Michael’s arrival will give us that in the wide positions. I’ve long been an admirer of Michael, not only in terms of him being a provider, but also the fact that he gets his share of goals. Our two wingers, Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant, have been brilliant over the past few years, but they went off the boil in terms of goalscoring last season, so we wanted to address that. Competition for places will bring the best out of them again and that is what Michael’s presence will give us in that area.
With Etherington likely to continue in the left flank role, Pennant looks the most at risk here. The latter made just 18 starts for Stoke last season, with Jon Walters and Ryan Shotton both handed game time on the right of midfield. Walters now seems likely to continue solely up front rather than drop back onto the wing on occasion, boosting his potential as an out-of-position prospect in Fantasy Premier League (FPL).
While he has yet to be added to the Sky Sports game Kightly has been handed a 5.5 price tag by FPL – the same as Pennant and 1.0 less than Etherington – and, if he can nail down a regular role, his delivery from out wide will be a valuable asset to the likes of Peter Crouch up top and could, potentially, propel the former Wolves man as a viable mid-price asset for our consideration.
The Potters’ opening schedule is likely to see Fantasy managers approach the Stoke squad with plenty trepidation, however. With showdowns against Arsenal, City, Chelsea, Liverpool and United in the first eight Gameweeks, Pulis’ men could hardly ask for a trickier start and, while some may feel trips to Reading and Wigan could prove prosperous, it’s worth remembering the Stoke picked up a dire three points in their last nine away matches of 2011/12. Fantasy investment can be expected around the Gameweek 9 mark, however, when the fixture list smiles significantly kinder on Kightly and co.
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“I love to attack and I love to go up front...It is a little more difficult than when you are playing centre-back. If you play the way that I want to play, I think my influence is better as a left-back. For the team, it is best that I play as a centre-back. I like to bring the ball out. You need to move the game quickly, and that is one of my qualities as well.”Jan Vertonghen outlines what he feels is his best position for Andre Villas-Boas