The Tom Edwards question is developing into one of the more pressing matters in this young offseason. Arriving on a one-year loan last offseason, the English right back was quietly one of the top performers for New York Red Bulls in 2021 at multiple positions in the backline, and faces a high-stakes decision about his professional future this winter.
A source told OaM managing editor Ben Cork last week that the Red Bulls “would like to keep the Englishman long-term and are enquiring about such possibilities.” Because I had to look it up, inquire pertains to a formal questioning and enquire is more of a general howdy-do. I asked Ben whether his word choice is intentional. He did not respond. That is quite typical.
As for Edwards, the player continues to state his desire to compete for a place at Stoke City, a sentiment reiterated by his representative. “New York Red Bulls are very keen to sign him and he’s loved it there, but he wants to train at Stoke and fight for his place,” shared Gary Mellor. “Tom will be coming back a completely different person, more mature and the most confident as a player that he’s been in his career. He’s had a great year in terms of experience on and off the pitch and we’re looking forward to what happens next.”
The manager echoed a similar hope. “Tom will come back in, of course,” said Michael O’Neill of Stoke. “He’s got a month until the transfer window will open and he’s obviously got a contract, a long-term contract with another two-and-a-half years left… I have to commend him for taking the opportunity [in MLS] because he had to come a little bit out of his comfort zone, which is a good thing… He comes back here and hopefully we’ll see the best version we can of Tom. I don’t think we’ve seen that in the period I’ve been at the club and I look forward to seeing it when he comes back next week.”
The right back position, once the strongest spot in the formation, is now threadbare following the departures of Edwards, Kyle Duncan, and Mandela Egbo. If there is anything pushing against the paucity of available options, the Red Bulls knew well in advance of this impending situation. Time will tell if the solution involves the return of the Potter or the acquisition of a new talent, although retaining a familiar and known quality that is comfortable with the system appears the best course of action. The Red Bulls are expected to announce their end-of-season contract decisions on Wednesday.
The worst case scenario is the New York club comes away with a reputation as career fixers, helping change perceptions and provide an environment for players to get their respective grooves back. As the club shifts its recruitment resources towards higher and higher levels in Europe, such a perception could prove lucrative.