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Hughes: Crouch still key

Stoke boss Mark Hughes has dismissed speculation linking Peter Crouch with West Ham and insists the striker remains key to his plans.

Newspaper reports have touted Crouch as a target for Sam Allardyce, who is seeking attacking reinforcements after losing Andy Carroll to injury.

But despite the summer arrivals of Bojan and Mame Biram Diouf, Hughes is adamant the 34-year-old - who played the first half of Sunday's pre-season friendly at Blackburn - is still wanted at the Britannia.

Speaking to Sky Sports News after a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park, Hughes said: "There's always speculation at this time of year.

"Peter was great for me last year - he's a key part of what we're trying to do this year.

"People assume that if you bring quality in, quality people have to go out but that's not the case. We're looking to build a strong squad and add to the quality we already have.

"Peter was very much part of that quality last year and we expect him to stay."

Asked if West Ham had made a formal approach for Crouch, Hughes said: "No, absolutely not.

"It's just speculation - we understand that at this time of year - but we won't encourage anything."