STOKE striker Ricardo Fuller will miss his date with destiny against Sunderland tomorrow because of a bereavement.
The 31-year-old forward was a potential target for the Black Cats in the January transfer window and would have been relishing the chance to make an impact in tomorrow’s game.
But he is currently out of the country after being granted compassionate leave to attend his uncle’s funeral back home in Jamaica.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis said: “The family comes first in these kind of situations and so there wasn’t really a decision to make about letting him return home.
“Of course it’s a blow to lose Ric and I’m sure he’d have been looking forward to this one. But we have let him fly home for the funeral and he’ll be back with us next Tuesday.
“It has been a real family tragedy because his uncle was only in his forties and I believe he was at work on the railways when he had a heart attack.
“We’ll miss him, but in the circumstances he had to go back home and I’m sure everyone understands that.”
Fuller’s absence deprives tomorrow’s game of an interesting sub-plot after Pulis maintained there had been a bid from Sunderland last month – something the Wearsiders consistently denied – for a player valued at £5million by Stoke.
An initial inquiry was made for the player by Steve Bruce in the wake of Darren Bent’s departure but Sunderland baulked immediately at the Potters valuation and never reached the stage of making a bid.
There’s no shortage of interesting lines going into tomorrow’s game, with six former Sunderland players now plying their trade at the Britannia Stadium.
But of course the player most interest will focus on is Kenwyne Jones, sold somewhat controversially at the start of the season and expected to leads Stoke’s attack after being rested at Liverpool on Wednesday in readiness for tomorrow’s re-match with his old club (12.45pm).
Jones will be squaring up to Steve Bruce for only the second time since the Sunderland boss questioned the big striker’s consistency when selling him for £8million last August.
“Kenwyne has nothing to prove,” Pulis sniffed, “and he won’t treat this game much different to any other because nothing fazes the lad.
“He’ll look forward to it like we all will because this is the start of a potentially great period for this football club.”