John McGinn believes Hibernian could edge towards capacity crowds if they succeed in welcoming Anthony Stokes back to Easter Road.
The striker remains a signing target, with manager Neil Lennon still hopeful of bringing him back to the club for the third time in his career, and while McGinn says he would be delighted to see the deal completed, he says he would not be the only one.
“There’s been a lot of chat about it but I’ve not texted or spoken to him. That’s because he changes his phone like the weather and I don’t have his number now. But he fitted in well last time he was here. He is a top player as you saw in the cup final.
“I’m sure the fans will take to him. He’s a big hero round these parts and we will need to build an extra bit to the stadium because the season tickets are already running out. It is going to be a great turn out in every game this season, it’s a special time to be at Hibs and I am sure if we get some signings in, they’ll all look forward to it.”
McGinn and Stokes, pictured, were team-mates when the club finally ended the Scottish Cup drought. The Irishman scored the side’s first two goals in that 2016 Hampden final and turned in a performance that earned him the man-of-the-match accolade and the unofficial freedom of Leith as he and his colleagues made the most of that summer’s celebrations.
McGinn believes he will be a popular addition to the dressing room and an asset on the pitch.“When you come to a club like Hibs not everyone can handle it, there’s pressure in every single game to get results. We are a team that’s supposed to be at the top end of Scottish football and we need players likes Stokesy that are used to that and know what it takes to try to get us winning all the time.”
A hat-trick for Simon Murray in Tuesday night’s League Cup Group D win over League One Arbroath suggests that Stokes would face competition for a starting place, with forward places already at a premium following the arrival of Lithuanian international Deivydas Matulevicius. But McGinn believes the Hibs gaffer knows what he is getting in his fellow former Celt.
“Everybody knows that sometimes he thrives under certain managers and other managers can’t take to him but the gaffer here would know how to get the best out of him. He’s a good character, a good laugh. I’m not sure where the negotiations are at, but hopefully we get the deal over the line.
“I think the club are aiming for players with a lot of experience; international players. That gives us an extra edge. We have been looking for players like that and we seem to have clicked. Hopefully we can take that into the season and give people a real nose bleed.”
As well as the players who have been there and done it, there are a raft of youngsters knocking on the door of the first team. Several have been given a chance in the League Cup, with Ryan Porteous proving himself to be one of the stars of the midweek outing.
A defensive display devoid of nerves, he also weighed in with a couple of goal and midfielder McGinn was not surprised by the overall contribution.
“We have really good young boys coming through to keep us on our toes. I think you can see big Ryan is a Rolls Royce of a defender. I will never forget the first day he came into training and put big Grant Holt on his backside! He is as hard as nails, quick on the ball and as we have seen he has an eye for goal.”
The teenager he describes as a ‘big Hibby’, is not the only one making a strong case for himself, though. “When you come up to train with the first team you are not there to be a tourist or a spectator, you want to take a jersey and I think Ryan has the bit between his teeth and the other younger boys need to look at him for a bit of inspiration. He respects the older boys but at the same time he thinks ‘I’m as good as you and I’m going to take your jersey’. All credit to him. Fraser [Murray] and Oli [Shaw] are getting close as well. They have great ability and even behind the scenes there are a few others who can compete.”