Stoke City to gazump rivals for FA Cup winner

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes is pondering life beyond Asmir Begovic and may just gazump Middlesbrough in the process.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given looked poised to join Boro yesterday only for the Potters boss to swoop in and announce his interest.

Given, 39, kept 10 clean sheets in 16 loan games for the Riverside outfit back in 2013-14 and was believed to be on his way back on a permanent basis.

However, Hughes’ interest has put the brakes on such a move and the Britannia Stadium residents are now in pole position to sign the former Blackburn, Newcastle and Manchester City stopper.

Hughes currently has Begovic as his number one but with Chelsea allowing Petr Cech to join Arsenal and Manchester United on the brink of losing David de Gea to Real Madrid it is thought both clubs will launch bids to sign the Bosnia international in the coming weeks.

An FA Cup runner-up with Villa last year and a winner of the trophy with City in 2011 there are few keepers with more experience that the 128-cap Republic of Ireland ‘keeper.

That said, Given is no spring chicken and Hughes knows that if Given does replace Begovic between the Britannia sticks then further reinforcements will not be far behind.

Wigan number one Ali Al-Habsi has also been linked with a move to Stoke and at six years Given’s junior would offer a more long-term solution.

However, the chance to sign someone with Given’s experience doesn’t come along too often and his presence in the Stoke changing room – even for a year – could help immensely as the club attempts to defy odds of 18/1 to break into the Premier League’s top six this season.

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James Curtis

After studying for a degree in journalism and gaining his NCTJ, James contributed to a wide range of papers, online publications and broadcasters including the South London Press, Press Association and Sky Sports News before joining the Ladbrokes News team.