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Anthony Stokes: The End of The Line?

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I remember where I was on the day I heard that Anthony Stokes had snubbed Celtic.

I was working at Celtic Park part time then, as a steward in the bus park, and I heard on the radio that he’d come for signing talks but decided not to bother.

I remember being stunned – not surprised, not a little puzzled but genuinely stunned – when it was announced that he was opting for Sunderland instead, because, he said, he wanted to play under Roy Keane.

Part of me, I guess, never really got over that because I’ve never been fully reconciled to the sight of Anthony Stokes in a Celtic shirt.

Sacrilege to some, I’m sure, but I was just never really that keen on him after he pulled the plug on that move to us in 2007.

That he ended up at Celtic Park anyway was more, I’ve always thought, a symbol of his failure as a player in England and of the early shackles we put on Neil Lennon.

On his day, Stokes is a fine scorer.

In the SPL.

But Kris Boyd could once say the same, and that’s who I’ve always mentally compared Stokes to.

I’ve not really seen anything that convinces me that I am wrong.

I’ve always thought that his failures at Sunderland, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace were signs of a player who found his level in Scotland and was never going to be anything more than he is.

If we take Europe as the benchmark of a truly good player, his record there is abysmal.

He’s played twenty nine European ties – including two at Hibs – in his time, and he’s scored twice.

I watched him play on that stage under Neil Lennon on many occasions and there was only one game – the match where he scored those goals, against Rennes at Celtic Park – where he looked to me like he had something about him.

Nowhere near good enough.

Just not a big game player for me.

Which isn’t to say he didn’t have some big moments.

For a start, I can fully understand why Neil Lennon liked him so much.

In his first season he showed flashes of technical brilliance I hadn’t known he had in him, including a ridiculously sexy goal at Easter Road against Hibs and a hat-trick at Aberdeen.

He formed a great partnership with Gary Hooper – probably the best of his career – and they seemed to bring something good out in each other.

Yet it was 15 October 2011 that sealed his place in Lennon’s team, and in his heart, I think when he scored two of the goals in the dramatic 3-3 comeback at Kilmarnock, a game where Neil looked to be heading for the same fate as Tony Mowbray at St Mirren.

That night we saw Stokes at his very, very finest; a guy who looked like he could run through walls for the cause, and for the manager.

He was unlucky with injuries at times – including one that kept him out of the team for five whole months in 2012 – and when Leigh Griffiths arrived I think you could see the writing on the wall.

In his last full season before arrived he played 30 odd and didn’t hit double figures for goals in the league, and of course he struggled initially to adapt to Ronny ’s arrival.

Yet something happened there and it made me wonder if he was going to perhaps enjoy something of a renaissance, and morph into a different player.

He was one of those who knuckled down to what was attempted to do and worked his socks off.

That impressed the Norwegian, who preferred him to Leigh Griffiths initially and for that very reason.

He played Stokes out wide, which I thought brought out the best in his game, enhancing his undisputed technical abilities (which Boyd never possessed in his life) without putting him under pressure to deliver hat loads of goals.

He seemed to work well with Izaguerre on the left side.

But that was temporary, and deep down we all knew it, I think.

The signings of Ciftci, Mackay Steven and Armstrong made it clear.

Our very public pursuit of another finisher has also minimised his chances of featuring in more than a handful of games.

From the moment the big forward arrived, I felt his time was up.

Now it looks as if it is, with Burnley allegedly on his trail.

I can’t even pretend that I don’t think moving him on is the right thing.

Our clubs is entering a new era and Tony Stokes doesn’t fit into that.

On his day – in Scotland – he will score goals and entertain.

On the bigger stage, which is what we’re looking to, he hasn’t done it.

There also some off-field issues which might affect his future.

It seems to me that the club has probably taken that into consideration too.

He leaves (if he does; nothing in football is certain) with a pretty decent trophy haul from his time at Parkhead to go with his Championship title from Sunderland; four SPL winners medals, two Scottish Cups and one League Cup.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

If this truly is the end then he goes with our thanks, and our best wishes.

But not, from me anyway, many regrets.

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8 comments

  • Karl says:

    How many goals did he score altogether ,,this is the usual celtic fans in Scotland slagging off Irish players it’s going on for years ,,but Scottish players are magic of course,,

    • James Forrest says:

      Karl

      That is an absolutely arsehole comment.

      If you’re going to accuse me, a fellow Celtic fan, of anti-Irish racism have the balls to come out and say it front and centre.

      And get ready for the lawyers letter.

      Dickhead.

  • Mick Ryan says:

    Have to agree with James there, ridiculous comment Karl. Good article as usual, Stokes was A good SPL player but we need better than that if we want to progress in Europe. Over to you scouting department. HH

  • Frankysevenone says:

    “He was one of those who knuckled down to what Deila was attempted to do and worked his socks off.”

    There’s the nub….what was he doing prior to this?

    Karl-Garbage, if anything, he got an easy ride from the fans due to where he came from !!!!!!

  • Bigeal says:

    nice post James, but why a fellow Tim has to put up that response is beyond me, totally stupid

  • Inter no 7 says:

    I wish him good luck for the future well done Stokesy u can entertain.

  • englishcelticfan says:

    I also wish Stokesy all the best for the future, i love my trips to Parkhead and find the fans friendly so very disappointed you couldn’t finish your blog on better note….

  • Stewart Maxwell says:

    I think they should give him a go in an attacking midfield role, as he has good vision, and can pass the ball well. Give him 6 months in the reserves, to see what he is capable of in this position, if it doesn’t work out, then heave him, but don’t be too hasty.

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