Alan Pattullo: Stokes too young to be left in storage

Anthony Stokes has not played for Celtic since starting in the 3-1 win over Dundee United at Tannadice on 22 August. Picture: SNS Group
Anthony Stokes has not played for Celtic since starting in the 3-1 win over Dundee United at Tannadice on 22 August. Picture: SNS Group
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It is saddening to hear reports of the current whereabouts of James McFadden, who is someplace between India and Glasgow while his career continues to hang in limbo.

McFadden is returning from India after deciding against accepting the offer to become Indian Super League club Kerala Blasters’ marquee player for the season. This follows a similar spell in America, which again came to naught after a trial period at MLS side Philadelphia Union.

Cold as it was in the Highlands, the frostiness with which Deila dealt with the subject of Stokes’ absence was still marked

Alan Pattullo

Then there’s Derek Riordan, reduced to being given name-checks by in-form Hibs striker Jason Cummings for helping with his shooting while still only 32, and with miles left on the clock. Garry O’Connor, meanwhile, again only 32, cut an incongruous figure at the Saughton Sports Complex last week as he put his Selkirk FC players through their paces, whistle hanging around neck.

Full credit to O’Connor for being prepared to explore this new career avenue at what is such a lowly level. Admirable, also, is McFadden’s on-going quest to find some late career football fulfilment, Riordan’s too.

But their tales do underline the easy come, easy go nature of professional football. They all might advise those coming up behind them to make the most of their chances, while they still can. To appreciate what they have while they still have it. Maybe Riordan is doing just that in his new role as mentor to Cummings.

Perhaps surprisingly, Anthony Stokes, the frozen-out Celtic striker, was named in the provisional Republic of Ireland squad by Martin O’Neill ahead of their Euro 2016 play-off against Bosnia & Herzegovina, the first leg of which takes place tomorrow night. Less surprisingly, he didn’t make the final cut of 30 players. They have travelled without him.

Exiled, again. He should be getting used to it by now. In Dingwall on Sunday, after his side’s 4-1 victory over Ross County, Celtic manager Ronny Deila was asked about Stokes’ continued absence from the squad – he hasn’t played since starting a league win over Dundee United in August, and even then his inclusion counted as a surprise.

“Stokesy is training but he is not in the squad,” said Deila. Why was that?

“Because he is not good enough,” was Deila’s blunt answer. Cold as it was in the Highlands, the frostiness with which Deila dealt with this particular subject was still marked.

“It is up to him to show the things I want to see from him,” he added. “Again, I pick the team I think is best and the squad I think is best. That’s how it is.” It is pretty clear that things are unlikely to change for Stokes while Deila is manager and while John Collins, someone else it’s possible to imagine finds it easy to be irked by the striker’s sometimes questionable attitude, is assisting him.

Stokes’ contract expires in the summer. Would it be at all surprising if we didn’t see him in a Celtic jersey again?

At 27, there is time left for him to rescue a career that even recently, still promised so much. This time last year he was named in the starting line-up for what was then treated as a crunch title match with Aberdeen at Pittodrie. He then featured another 20 times that season for club and country.

It wasn’t so long ago that he was a major part of Celtic and Ireland’s plans.

Now he is reduced to sitting at home tweeting complaints about firework displays outside his house. It seems pretty clear where Deila would like to put one of those rockets.