Stoke manager Paul Lambert insists their battle to avoid relegation will not be distracted by reports that Jese Rodriguez has not reported to training for two days.
According to multiple reports, on-loan Paris Saint-Germain forward Jese is AWOL after failing to appear for training for a second day running on Thursday after his latest spell of compassionate leave to visit his sick son in Spain.
The news comes just a week after Saido Berahino was banished to the under-23s after turning up late for a reserves game in his latest timekeeping issue.
With Ibrahim Afellay told to stay away from the club because of his disruptive influence and Erik Pieters fined for breaking a curfew before last month’s match against Everton, Jese’s non-appearance is just one more thing Lambert could do without as his next-bottom side bid to avoid the drop.
Asked about Jese’s absence at his prematch news conference ahead of the trip to West Ham, Lambert said: “That’s your first question? We have a game Monday and I’m just going to concentrate on the game if you don’t mind.
“I’m getting it out of the way quickly when I answer and I’m just going to concentrate on Monday’s game.”
When quizzed about Berahino’s future the Potters boss added: “It’s exactly the same. I am just going to focus on West Ham.
“If you want to ask about West Ham you can ask me, you can ask about how difficult the game is, you can ask about last week’s game but the team at the minute is really well and the supporters are behind us.”
Monday’s game will pit two England goalkeeping rivals against each other in Jack Butland and Joe Hart and while Lambert still believes the latter has quality, he has full confidence in his man to represent his country with honour.
“I thought Joe Hart got them a point against Chelsea,” added Lambert. “He made some incredible saves; the save from [Marcos] Alonso was excellent and he will no doubt bring the fight with Jack and [Jordan] Pickford at Everton.
“He’s a good goalkeeper. He’s had his critics but he is still a very good goalkeeper. There is no doubt of throwing Jack in. If Gareth [Southgate] thinks Jack’s the right man then I have no doubt Jack wouldn’t let anyone down.”
Monday’s match will be refereed by Michael Oliver, who hit the headlines on Wednesday after awarding a quarter-final-winning added-time penalty for Real Madrid and sending off Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon on his last Champions League appearance.
Lambert gave his backing to the official, saying: “I think you are at the pinnacle of your profession when you are refereeing these games. Whether it is a penalty or not Michael makes a decision and I respect him as a referee.
“We had him here in my first game against Huddersfield and I think he is a really top referee. The emotion of the game overspills but if you ask a lot of people they will have different opinions whether it was or was not a penalty but [Cristiano] Ronaldo goes and sticks it in the end Real Madrid go through.”