Delia Decision Stokes Controversy

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File photo dated 10/08/2013 of Celtic's Anthony Stokes.

The situation with Anthony Stokes is a troubling one.

Anthony Stokes is one of those players who has always frustrated me.

Before I go on, I’m going to make a confession; I was a fan of his for a while, before he was a Celtic player, until the day he came to Parkhead for signing talks and then left without agreeing a deal. A few days later he had signed for Sunderland, and for me that was it.

He became one of those guys, a player who had made his bed and who I would have been comfortable to see sleep in it until the end of his career.

When he failed in England and came back to Scotland I knew he would end up at Celtic anyway, and I never wanted him.

I never reconciled myself to his signing for our club.

I’m putting that on the table in advance of writing another word.

The last time I wrote about Stokes a fellow “Celtic fan” accused me of anti-Irish racism – one of the stupidest, most incoherent charges ever levelled at me – and whilst I absolutely refute the notion I am perfectly happy to admit that I was anti-Anthony Stokes.

But I’ll tell you, I felt the same way on the day we signed Scott McDonald, which I thought was an insult considering that he was the player who consigned us to defeat on Black Sunday.

I couldn’t believe that signing, but he turned me around right quick and on the day he left I was genuinely gutted at the loss of a player I considered a class act.

I never felt that way about Anthony Stokes.

Although I came to respect him for always putting in a shift, I always thought he lacked too many qualities and that little bit of class that separates a top quality player from one who is middling at best.

About three years ago I got so fed up with his failures in big, big games that I took to calling him Celtic’s Kris Boyd; a player who could only do the job in Scotland.

I’ll tell you what, though; he was, and I think he still is, capable of doing that week in week out.

His record at Celtic is pretty good. 58 goals in 138 games.

That’s not to be sneezed at, although the vast, vast majority of them were in the SPL.

And this is where I have some sympathy with him.

I understood Stokes’ frustration at the weekend.

He’s not been in the team for months, and in that time he’s watched Nadir Ciftci toiling in matches where the Irishman might have been a better option.

I’ve seen him playing the sole striker role and whilst he’s not great at it – we actually don’t have a forward capable of doing that well – he’s got more experience there, and performs better than I’ve yet seen the Turkish player manage.

Stokes is a proven scorer at this level, and for Ronny Deila not to utilise him at all is a little difficult to understand.

Now, I’m not privy to what’s gone on at training or whatever – and the manager has expressed doubts about his discipline – but can it be that bad?

I suspect not, although, perversely, what he’s done here has simply lent weight to Ronny Deila’s view.

Airing his grievances in public is just wrong.

It wasn’t the sign of a mature player, of someone who’s getting a grip and working hard to save his career.

Those kind of arguments are better left for the dressing room, and he ought to have known better.

But Deila’s previous comments about the player’s need to work harder if he’s to get in the team are actually at odds with his decision, in the summer, to tell Stokes he was no longer part of the plans.

If you’re not part of a manager’s plans, what difference does it make how hard you work?

You’re not going to convince him to keep you hanging around.

But here’s where the real problem lies; Stokes, of course, is not the first player at the club to indulge in a little petulance lately.

Kris Commons famously had a go at the whole of the backroom team not long ago, in front of the TV cameras, and he wasn’t raked over the coals for it.

That was all settled in-house, amicably, and nothing further was made of it.

Today Stokes is all over the news, humiliated publicly, although he, like Commons, apologised.

This looks like a shocking double standard to me, and makes this action less like a manager showing his strength than one showing his weaknesses.

It’s inconsistent, and that can inevitably lead to further issues.

To discipline a player who’s not featuring in the side whilst he lets a fan favourite essentially attack his backroom team in a very public manner … well, that’s just not right.

And don’t let anyone think I’m using this as an excuse to have a go at Ronny.

I think Stokes deserved his punishment, although we ought not to have made a public spectacle of it.

That is overkill, and stinks of bad management.

In short, I want to know the difference between what Stokes did and what Commons did.

It’s his failure to take similar action against the midfielder which makes this a ridiculous move, along with the public nature of this punishment.

A lot of people at Celtic Park need to screw their heads on right now.

It looks more undisciplined at Parkhead than the Labour shadow cabinet.

Scott Brown’s injury means that our on-field leader is going to be missed, badly.

I worry more about who is providing the leadership off of it.

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  • Athenrye says:

    John Collins is the problem, ask Charlie Mulgrew what Collins said to him for going forward against Ajax, just before the goal and just before Charlie got injured.
    What exactly is John Kennedy’s role in the backroom team? A very good and unlucky to be so badly injured defender all the same but what does he contribute and has he any responsibility for the ludicrous goals lost at set pieces.
    Craig Gordon should be captain and lead Celtic!

  • robbied4 says:

    My sentiments entirely Collins is the problem.

  • heckie says:

    Commons naughty boy , smiles all round .Stokes terrible. shocking . Punish him .Off with his head !!! If Johansin falls out of line, no doubt he will be given a bonus . Delia clearly has an agenda against Stokes . Play him out of position , then put him in the stands or bench for the rest of the season when he does not produce . Stokes not as good as Ciftci, Armstrong , an unfit Coles ? Come on …..Please .

  • johnny67 says:

    athenrye has got this SPOT ON . get rid of the narcissus Collins remember Hibs J Kennedy has NO life experience, as his promising career was cut short , no way Craig, Captains are groomed from within not because you had a good wee run of games.

  • Terry Stinson says:

    Comparing Commons with Stokes is not fair comparison. Although both out of order, Commons outburst was in heat of moment after being substituted. Stokes had time to digest bad news and then was not brave enough to question decision face to face and turned to social media. I can forgive fact he’s not greatest player to wear hoops, but his lack of respect for Ronny and team, I can’t forgive.

  • schoosh71 says:

    After the game, RD was asked about this, in relation and with reference to any punishment, his answer was “it’s not about punishment”, “it’s about having respect for the players”.

    Personally I see this as a club action, were all the players know the rules with regards to social media. You break the rules, you pay the price, simple.

    So Anthony has had his ego bruised. Oh diddums. You need attitude, application and ability, Anthony’s got ability, but I’ve seen very little of the former two in his whole time at the club, apart from glimpses here and there.

    With Anthony, Chris and Charlie you have the last remnants of the NL cliche, Who rallied against the new manager when he came in(?) and who Know their days are numbered.

    Only my opinion. HH

    • john hughes says:

      Agree with you there schoosh. I believe that mulgrew, commons and stokes are the last of a NL clique.
      And RD eventually dispensing with them could be no bad thing. Stokes does have talent but with an ego to match. A bit of humility and application would not go amiss.
      Stokes could , if he had the right attitude, return to the first team squad.
      Obviously not as an answer to our striking problems but a valuable squad member nonetheless

    • edward says:

      Schoosh 71 is right.
      It is not about punishment it is about respect.
      Have some for our Manager and spell his name correctly in the headline.
      It is bad enough when our enemies do it,but,there is no excuse for doing it to ourselves.
      Although some of our own fans do this all the time.

  • Martin says:

    Another very well written piece James. I would only say that I think Stokes’ punishment is also a reflection of the cumulation of previous misdemeanours, which may explain the difference between his treatment and that served to Commons (who was also out of order)

  • John says:

    John Collins can’t be the problem. If Ronnie was doing his job properly then Collins would know his role about what he can and can’t do. I understand Stokes frustration, he is better than any forward we have except Griff. He played better on the left in front of Izzy than anyone else has this season. He knows it and we all know it so he let off steam but has apologised. To suspend him for 2 weeks is a disgrace, let the lad leave in January with a chance of getting a decent move. Doors have probably closed now for him. Ronnie did this to make himself look big and strong, he is a joke manager and the sooner he goes the better!

    • George gemmell says:

      Exactly John deliia and Collins are the problem not stokesy get rid of these two they are making Celtic a laughing stock in Europe

  • owen dolano says:

    Interesting piece James.
    I thought it was terrible the way they handled Stokes situation.Your asertion that there was no hullabaloo when Commons gave his outburst,but unlike youeself it seems to me it is the manager who is causing the problems.It looks to me that the players don’t think Deila knows what he is doing most of the time,and Collins is pulling the strings.That would explain why these players are rebelling,because Collins hasn’t got a clue either.

  • mike says:

    James,Celtic like every club i imagine would/should have a code of conduct, this would be a guide to what they can do and what they cant and a range of punishments if they commit a misdemeaner. Personally i think players should not have mobile phones in there possesion during matches.

  • Liam Dublin says:

    Harsh punishment for Stokes and not deserved. Cannot for the life of me understand why any rational Celtic supporter would not like Deila out on his ear. He has brought shame and embarrassment on the club on such a short period of time.

  • John N. says:

    When you see the displays this season from a few of our forwards you can understand Stokes frustration. Johansen,Armstrong,Mackay-Steven,are not the players they were last season but continue to play or come on week after week.The only reason Stokes was on the bench against Ajax was because of injuries and suspensions.He is a better option on the left than Armstrong who looks lost there and will also be more of a goal threat but never gets the chance.At Celtic right now it seems to be punishment is based on who you are rather than what you did and this is not good for anyone,specially the manager if he wants the respect he desires from his players.Another great article James and agree with your sentiments .entirely

  • martin says:

    The punishment handed out to stokesy is a joke , he has been messed about by Ronnie, he was made the scapegoat far to often whilst players like Johanson, forrest, efe and mulgrew got away with mediocre performances to say the least, while no matter what he done you could guarantee who would be taken off 1st or dropped. He is right not to be happy , wrong to go on twitter , but he apologised , commons was a lot worse and Ronnie tells us all is okay and we move on , double standards, this is coming from lawell , looking to get another player off the wage bill to pay for his new financial director, in all the cost cutting that goes on we see lots of cuts on the playing side but never any on the board , funny that

  • Andy says:

    Stokes is not up to it his European record is shocking. I would offload Stokes ,Mulgrew and Commons in January. Maybe Lenny could be persuaded to have all three.

  • Carlos says:

    Not happy with the way Stokes has been frozen out this season.l would have Stokes and Griffiths up front I’m sure they did well together towards the end of Lennon’s last season.Never wanted Cifti how has he got his hands on the number 7 shirt.I was hoping for Ronny to prove me wrong but think he is out of his depth.

  • DidsburyCelt says:

    Interesting post, James.

    While I agree with much of it I think that in one or two areas you are allowing your Celticness to cloud your judgement.

    Like you I am not a Stokes fan but he has scored some important and even vital goals for us in the league and normally, to borrow your phrase, has put in a shift. Again like you I think that the SPL is his level.

    I certainly do not know the ins and outs of his rejecting Celtic in favour of Sunderland. In fact I know very little of it but one thing I do know is that Stokes is a professional footballer. To state the obvious that is his job and it is that for which he is paid. Like any other employee he has a duty to his employer to do his best and like any other employee has a right to ply his trade where he can earn the best deal. Let’s not allow our Celticness to blind us to that and in any event having read many of your posts you are a better man than that. Mostly your logic is clear and concise. Do not let yourself down.

    You compare his position to that of Scott McDonald. Like every other Celtic fan I was devastated on Black Sunday. Despite being a Celtic fan Scott acted in a thoroughly professional way by doing his best for his team mates and his club by scoring goals. The very thing for which he was being paid. If you check his record with Celtic you will find that he was a thorn in Motherwell’s side. A man doing his job. How can his signing for Celtic be an insult. He was a proven goalscorer in the SPL. With Motherwell he had bagged 42 in 108 LEAGUE games. For us he was even better with 51 in 88. I have not checked his cup or European record. The league goals are enough to sustain the point. Like Stokes many of those goals were vital and some were last minute winners or assists.

    How do you feel about Henrik? On 14 September 2004 at Celtic Park with 8 minutes to go he scores for Barcelona and puts the game out of our reach at 1-3. It was a typical Larsson goal. The sublime striker seeing an opportunity and reacting the quickest. Almost disappointment on his face as he turns away having demonstrated his greatness as a goalscorer, a footballer and a man. The only time that he scored at Paradise and did not celebrate. He simply waved his colleagues away and returned to his own half for the restart. I do not know how painful it was if at all but he was a professional and he did his job. Top, top man!

    As I said, you are a better man than one who criticises someone for doing his job. Direct your criticism where it is normally arrowed so well at the MSM, the clowns and possible crooks at the SFA and SPFL and Ibrox etc.

    On the disciplining of Stokes compared to Commons you are spot on. The disparities only serve to weaken the Celtic Board and the management team. Yet another example of incompetence. I have no faith in the board now and after having been excited at Ronny’s signing as something innovative and ready to give him a chance I reached the conclusion about three months ago that he can go as soon as he likes.

    I love Celtic. I always have. I always will. I will never stop being a supporter. Hail, hail and keep the faith!

  • Vincent Doherty says:

    I think Delia’s treatment of Antony Stokes has been totally unfair. He has frozen him out of the team in favour of Ciftci, Armstrong, Johansen and MaCay Stevens. None of them have been consistently better than Stokes and all four have been going backwards since the start of the season. Delia has chosen to humiliate Stokes. If people are to be punished then there should be a level playing field. That said I would totally have objected to Chris Commons having been punished for showing a bit of passion. The real problem isn’t Commons or Stokes. The real problem is Delia. He is not up to the job. He is totally clueless as demonstrated by our humiliations in Europe. This is not going to end pretty. I would suggest we have another Tony Mowbray situation on our hands.

  • Jimmy 1940 says:

    Would never be out of the team,just my HO.

  • Chic says:

    I don’t think Stokes will play for Celtic again. Not because of Delia but the powers that be at Celtic Park want him out possibly for his alleged off the field activities.

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