Stoke City manager Mark Hughes has dismissed reports linking Peter Crouch with a move to West Ham United, stressing that the striker remains a key part of his plans for this season.
Crouch was made Stoke’s club record signing by Tony Pulis in August 2011, when he arrived from Tottenham Hotspur for £10 million, going on to net 17 times in 66 league games during his first two campaigns at the Britannia.
However, the former Liverpool front man was dropped from the side last season upon Mark Hughes’ appointment and, although he returned to the starting lineup in October to finish 2013-14 with 8 goals in 34 appearances, questions about his future at the club have persisted throughout the summer.
Those questions have further increased with the additions of fellow marksmen Mame Biram Diouf and Bojan Krkic, as well as reports of interest from West Ham, but Hughes still maintains that Crouch will be at the club once the transfer window his closed.
‘There’s always speculation this time of the year, people make assumptions,’ he told Sky Sports.
‘Peter was great for me last season and he’s a big part of what we’re trying to do here. People assume that if you bring quality in then quality has to go out. That’s not at all the case.
‘We’re looking to build a strong squad and add to the quality we already have. Peter was very much a big part of that success last year and I expect him to stay.’
Asked specifically about rumours of West Ham making a formal approach, Hughes moved quickly to quash such claims, stating that he’d heard nothing from their Premier League rivals.
‘No, absolutely not. It’s just speculation. The papers will do that. We understand that happens this time of year. It comes with the territory but we won’t encourage anything.’
Despite Hughes’ claims, however, speculation on Crouch’s future is likely continue over the coming weeks, with the 33-year-old facing a fight for first-team minutes in a squad which also contains Peter Odemwingie, Jonathan Walters, Marko Anautovic and Cameron Jerome as options up top.
With Sam Allardyce looking for attacking reinforcements following Andy Carroll’s injury, a move to Upton Park for the former England international would certainly make sense, though Stoke’s desire to improve upon last season’s impressive ninth-place finish means the importance of squad depth could put paid to a potential deal.