Steve Bruce is set to be put to the test, as Football Insider understand Stoke City are plotting a move for Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark.
New Toon boss Bruce recently gave the rarely-seen defender renewed backing amid interest from Crystal Palace and Bristol City, but Stoke are considering an official approach having lost captain Ryan Shawcross to a broken leg over the weekend.
The blow saw the long-serving Potters ace stretched off the field against Leicester City, and later underwent surgery, but manager Nathan Jones is confident the issue is not as bad as first feared.
“Ryan’s injury isn’t as bad as first thought. There’s a timescale, but we won’t announce that,” Jones told BBC Radio Stoke.
“It would be wrong to talk about that. God willing, there are no complications. The positive news is the fact that it’s not as serious as first feared.”
Nevertheless, Jones is alleged to have identified Clark as someone who can come in at the bet365 Stadium and cover the 31-year-old’s absence, having also seen Ashley Williams leave the club at the end of his loan deal in June.
It remains to be seen whether Stoke will make any advances before the new Championship campaign commences at the weekend, or before the August 8 deadline, but Bruce is confident the defender will still be on Tyneside once the window slams shut.
Speaking after Tuesday’s friendly with Hibernian, the new gaffer stated: “That’s not going to happen at the moment.
“We’re playing with three centre-backs and, with [Florian] Lejeune injured, we’ll only have four, so I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Stoke’s rumoured interest was not noted at the time, but Bruce was referring to speculation Crystal Palace may offer £5million for the defender to provide Roy Hodgson with cover for Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins.
Bristol City were also thought to be a known-admirer of Clark, following reports the Championship side had approached Newcastle to lodge their interest.
United are believed to have informed the Robins that it would take between £6m and £7million to facilitate a transfer, although that was before Bruce spoke to the media and poured cold on the likelihood of Clark moving away.