Stoke City rally around Joe Bursik following tragic update – Stoke-on-Trent Live

  • October 1, 2022

England under-21s goalkeeper has seen his dad Alex as a ‘pillar of strength’
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Stoke City are rallying around Joe Bursik following the shock death of his father, Alex.
Joe, still only 22, returned home early from England under-21s duty early this week and was able to make it to hospital in time to be with his dad as he passed away. Alex Neil is sure the young goalkeeper, who is expected to put himself forward to play against Watford on Sunday (12pm), will be determined to honour his “pillar of strength” with his career.
The Stoke manager said: “You can tell about the closeness of Joe’s relationship with his dad. Every time I speak to Joe, he speaks extremely fondly about the support and the backing he’s given him and all that sort of stuff. Everybody’s got someone really significant in their life and for Joe it seems like that was his dad whenever I speak to him about him.
READ MORE: Alex Neil pre-Watford press conference
“I think he’s coping with the news but more importantly I think football seems like a release for him too at the moment. He can come away and focus on being part of a team and trying to do his job. He wants to do well for himself and his dad’s legacy. He’s doing ok.”
It is part of the human side of managing players and a squad when there is so much emphasis on attributes and statistics.
Neil said: “That’s arguably the more important side as well. When you can relate to them and understand them as people, you then have an opportunity and chance to help them and reason with them and understand what they’re going through, knowing how best to utilise them and where they are mentally and physically.
“I’ve had a lot of conversations with Joe over the last few days and certainly performance wise I don’t have any concerns.”
Jack Bonham is fit and available again after a steroid injection in the fat pad of a knee but Bursik had done well since regaining the gloves, keeping clean sheets at Hull and Queens Park Rangers before the international break.
Neil said: “He was very good – and he is very good. He went away with England too and kept a clean sheet in Italy. Certainly on the pitch he’s performing well.”
It is has been a free fortnight of training for Neil at Stoke but most days he has been down to 10 or 12 senior players to work with – until everyone was back at Clayton Wood yesterday who will be in contention to feature against Watford.
Neil said: “It’s probably been a little bit more frustrating than I would like. Ideally you’d like to get all your players fit and have a clean slate but pre-season is the best time for that isn’t it? Everybody is fit, they’re champing at the bit, they’ve had a good break, they’re fresh and you can get a lot of good work into them.
“Unfortunately we’ve got internationals who go away and Jordan Thompson, for instance, now has to have a scan on his cheek to see how bad that is going to be. It’s not helpful. We’ve got a couple of guys who need a couple of injections here and there and a bit of down time to make sure they’re ready for this set of games.
“It’s not as clean as you would like it to be to get work into them and different things like that.”
Thompson, who banged his head for Northern Ireland against Greece, has an unhappy knack of suffering injury just as he has staked a claim to have a good run in the Stoke team.
Neil said: “It’s really unfortunate. Sometimes you look at soft tissues and wonder if it’s preventable and did we put him into many games continuously? When it’s a contact injury to your face I’m afraid it’s just bad luck.”
Stoke have been coy with injury updates but Dujon Sterling, Harry Clarke and Nick Powell are among those who potentially could be in the squad this weekend. It will come too soon for Jacob Brown (quad) and Harry Souttar (knee).