STOKE boss Tony Pulis will make a late check on Republic of Ireland midfielder Glenn Whelan ahead of this weekend’s clash with Sunderland.
Whelan suffered a hamstring strain at Liverpool earlier this month, which ruled him out of Ireland’s World Cup qualifiers and last weekend’s defeat to Manchester United.
But the 28-year-old returned to training yesterday and could be brought straight back into the fold for tomorrow’s encounter at the Britannia Stadium.
Pulis said: “We will see how Glenn is between now and kick-off.
“He has had this injury for a couple of weeks now and we are hoping to get him back into things again.
“He returned to training again yesterday having not trained during the rest of the week, so we will have another look at him today and then assess what we are going to do on Saturday.”
Regardless of Whelan’s involvement, team-mate Michael Owen is likely to remain on the bench tomorrow with the former England striker yet to start for the Potters after arriving on a Bosman deal last month.
Owen was again restricted to a substitute’s role on his return to Old Trafford last weekend and Pulis admits the ex-Newcastle United frontman needs to be fully fit before he is thrown into the starting XI.
“Michael came on and was unlucky not to score as Robin Van Persie made a good clearance,” he said.
“He’s got better, he’s got stronger again, but it’s time and we’ll use Michael as we’ll use Matty Etherington and Deano (Dean Whitehead) and people like that.
“Everything will be down to what we think is right for the team. It won’t be down to the individual.
“The most important thing is that we get him to a level of fitness so if or when he does start he gets through it and onto the next game.
“I’m not saying he’s going to be an impact player. I’m hoping he will play a big part but we have to get him fit first.”
Stoke have faced Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool during their opening eight games, with tomorrow’s visit of Sunderland the start of a more appealing run of fixtures for the Potters.
Pulis added: “We’re disappointed we haven’t picked up more points because I think our performances have been better than the return of points that we have got.
“But we’ve done very well. What we need is to get a few results now and push on from there.”