Walters sees Cup opportunity as Hughes eyes Berahino move
Frustrate Jonathan Walters is viewing tomorrow's FA Cup tie with Doncaster as an opportunity to force his way back into a starting spot at Stoke - but his task could be complicated if Mark Hughes succeeds in a swoop for West Brom attacker Saido Berahino.
The hero of Ireland's Euro 2016 play-off win over Bosnia has been forced to settle for an impact sub role in recent weeks with Mark Hughes preferring a front three comprising Marco Arnautovic, Bojan and Xherdan Shaqiri. His last start was the League Cup success over Sheffield Wednesday on December 1.
There is uncertainty over the future of Arnautovic who has rejected a new contract offer and Hughes is understood to be weighing up an ambitious bid for Berahino who has been tipped to join Spurs in this window.
Given the doubts that existed over Walters' future at the close of the August transfer window - with his old boss Tony Pulis at West Brom one admirer - the 32-year-old has noted the irony of the timing in his drop to the bench.
"I came into the team when we weren't doing so well, played well and got a new contract ... then I don't think I've started since I signed it!" he quipped.
"I want to play games. I haven't done that in the last few weeks. Coming off the bench is hard, so I want to get back into the team.
"I'm sure there will be plenty of changes," said Walters, with an eye to Doncaster. "We have the personnel to change it around, but we'll see. Hopefully we can get back to winning ways before an important league game with Norwich."
Hughes is looking to trim down his squad this month to make room for new arrivals and that could lead to loan departures for Marc Wilson and Stephen Ireland. Wilson has dropped down the pecking order and will be conscious of the lack of game-time with Euro 2016 in mind.