The future of Lee Gregory has certainly been a topic of hot discussion this January transfer window, as the Stoke City forward has plenty of suitors.
While the likes of Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic, Middlesbrough have all been credited with an interest, the most prominent links have been to him joining hometown club, Sheffield Wednesday, or reuniting with his former Millwall manager Neil Harris, who’s currently in charge of Cardiff City.
Despite only joining last summer and struggling to truly stamp his mark, the Stoke City reshaping that’s occurring under Michael O’Neill’s stewardship, in combination with Gregory falling behind Sam Vokes in the striking pecking order, has seen him emerge as a top option for many teams.
A physical, powerful and determined forward, Gregory would unquestionably be a shrewd acquisition for many of the aforementioned teams due to his skill set. Always one to impose himself on his opposition due to his size, aggression and intensity, the experienced 31-year-old is a real handful for any backline on his day.
Accomplished in duels all over the pitch, he competes tirelessly to be an option to support attacks. Offering himself as a fantastic target and reference point, Gregory is an ideal outlet for long balls due to his aerial prowess, judgement and strength. Indeed, his presence is key, for it helps his team win second balls, knock downs, flick ons and when they need an out ball to bypass the press.
Switching the focus to his movement, and the former Millwall star does a fine job of tailoring his runs to get into excellent positions inside the box or when bursting in behind. Timing his runs smartly to exploit the blindside of markers, when gaps are present within the backline or when a defender is occupied or ball watching, he’s quick to pounce. In addition, the way he picks up the ball’s trajectory sharply enhances his threat, meaning he can adjust his run or body shape to maximise his scoring chances.
Meanwhile, when it comes to dropping deep, he’s proven he can connect play with his back to goal via some neat layoffs while also using his size to hold up the play when required.
When checking towards the ball, it’s also notable how this leaves space behind him to be exploited by a teammate and helps his team enjoy an extra number in midfield to progress.
Moving onto his work with the ball at his feet, and Gregory’s proficient at linking play with some neat interplay, when switching the angle of attacks and when recirculating possession or setting up teammates (as his 14 assists in the last two-and-a-half years illustrate).
A sound finisher who can score a variety of goals, including instinctive tap ins, clinical 1v1s with the keeper, powerful or glanced headers and finesse finishes, he’s proven his worth in this regard.
Stoke teammate, Tyrese Campbell, spoke in glowing terms of how much he’s benefited playing alongside Gregory, stating: “It’s great to work alongside Gregs – he’s been around a long time, played a lot of football and has great experience.
“To have someone alongside me who can talk, help and support me is great and I couldn’t ask for more really. We’ve worked on a few things in training. He’ll speak to me and say he’ll hold up the ball and do the dirty work while I do the running and work the channels. It’s a good partnership and I enjoy playing alongside him.”
With his future far from sorted, there’s no doubting what a useful acquisition the experienced Gregory would be for many teams looking for an additional spearhead to lead their line or to provide solid backup.