Stoke boss Mark Hughes expects Republic of Ireland hero Jon Walters to fire up his team as he comes bouncing back into club action.
Walters has rejoined Stoke on a high this week after scoring twice against Bosnia on Monday to secure Ireland’s place at Euro 2016 next summer.
The 32-year-old’s play-off winning effort came just over a week after he signed a new two-and-a-half year contract at the Britannia Stadium. He had been heavily linked with a move away from the club in September.
Hughes said: “He was obviously bounding into training today with a real spring in his step, along with all the other Irish guys.
“We are delighted. It is no coincidence, Jon’s form has been excellent. That spring in his step, that was also to do with him knowing where he is going to be for the next two or three years.
“That continuity that he knows he will have now, that enables him to perform at the right level. Ireland certainly benefited from that and I think we will benefit from that in the future.”
Walters had been suspended for the first leg of Ireland’s play-off in Bosnia, a match they drew 1-1, but made up for lost time with both the goals in the 2-0 win in the return in Dublin.
Hughes said: “He was biding his time, kicking his heels in the first game. He wanted to play in that but wasn’t allowed to.
“I think all that pent-up frustration he brought to bear on the second leg. He made a huge impact, with not only his goals but his performance as well.”
Hughes will now want Walters to carry the momentum into Saturday’s Barclays Premier League trip to Southampton, as the Potters aim to follow up their impressive win over Chelsea last time out.
The form of Walters is one of the factors currently keeping former England forward Peter Crouch out of the side.
Crouch, 34, has not yet started a Premier League game this season and has expressed his frustration.
Hughes, speaking at a press conference to preview the game at Crouch’s former club Southampton, said: “He wants more game time, I am aware of that. I haven’t been able to give him the time on the pitch that he feels he wants but I know, and he knows, that things in football change very quickly. He has just got to be ready when the opportunity presents itself.
“We have got a senior group predominantly under 25, so when everyone is fit players miss out or don’t even get on the bench. Pete is getting on the bench and is close to playing, but is not in the team itself.
“He has just got to be patient because we know it is a long season and injuries, suspensions occur. Things will change, I am sure.”