Stoke City boss O’Neill banking on Mikel’s experience for 2020-21 Championship campaign

The Potters fortified their team with the former Nigeria international in the summer in their quest to return to the English top-flight

Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill is hoping John Obi Mikel will bring his experience to bear when the 2020-21 Championship campaign gets underway.

The 33-year-old teamed up with the Bet365 Stadium outfit in August as a free agent after mutually parting ways with Turkish Super Lig club Trabzonspor.

The former Nigeria captain made his name while playing for Chelsea, where he spent 11 years and won a number of accolades including the Champions League, Premier League and Europa League titles, among others.

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Mikel is gradually settling in at the club, having featured in their pre-season friendly games against Leeds United, Shrewsbury Town and Newcastle United.

O’Neill has praised the addition of the midfielder and he is confident he will help his side in their quest to return to the Premier League.

“I think we’ve got a good experience in the spine of the team. We’ve real quality that Steven Fletcher, John Obi Mikel and James Chester bring as well.” O’Neill said in a pre-match press conference.

“You’re always wary of taking a player from abroad but with John, it wasn’t like that because he’d been in the UK for so long. There were no worries about that scenario.

“What John has demonstrated – and his fitness levels are improving all the time, having not played since March – is that every day in training is a top-quality player who can handle the ball and is able to tactically understand the game and help the players around him tactically.

“He’s been great since he came in.”

The midfielder will be expected to play a part when Stoke City open their 2020-21 Championship campaign against Millwall on Saturday.  

Besides playing for Chelsea, Mikel has also featured for Lyn Oslo, Tianjin TEDA and Championship club Middlesbrough.

The 33-year-old made 91 appearances for the Nigeria national team before he retired from international duty after helping the side finish third at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

The midfielder also featured prominently as the Super Eagles won their third continental title in 2013 in South Africa and captained the Nigeria side that won the 2016 Olympic bronze medal.




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