Stoke City Manager Laments How Mikel Obi Is Not Ready To Play

Michael O’Neill expects it to be touch whether John Obi Mikel will be ready to start Stoke City’s league season as he builds his new signing up to top speed.

The 33-year-old trained on Saturday morning rather than play on Saturday afternoon as Stoke squeezed past Blackpool in the Carabao Cup first round via a penalty shoot-out.

Mikel is playing catch up having left Trabzonspor five months ago but he has friendlies against Leeds (tomorrow at the training ground) and Newcastle United (at St James’s Park on Saturday) to help before a trip to Millwall in the Championship on September 12.

O’Neill said: “John Obi’s not played since March when he left Trabzonspor. In that period he’s only been training on his own. He’s now done a week or 10 days training with us now and had 45 minutes in the training ground game.

“He trained hard on Saturday morning with a group of six or seven players that all trained very hard. That’s more beneficial for him at this minute in time than playing for half a game.

“We just have to build John up. He’s probably two or three weeks away from being ready for competitive action, certainly in terms of starting a game. We’ll see where he is this week, the games against Leeds and Newcastle.

“It’s an opportunity to get minutes into him and he needs as much football as possible.”

The game was in the middle of pre-season and O’Neill knows his side is a work in progress – and hopes to gain a lot from the final two friendlies.

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“They’re very important friendlies and they’ll be tough,” he said.

This article was most recently revised and updated 4 years ago