IN A week when Celtic manager Neil Lennon publicly criticised striker Anthony Stokes for attending a tribute night in honour of Alan Ryan, the deceased head of the Real IRA in Dublin and one of the city’s most notorious criminals, it is now believed that Stokes is in further trouble at Celtic.
With his contract due to expire in the summer, it is understood Stokes has six months to save his career at the SPL champions after conduct seemingly unbecoming of a professional footballer, which angered both the coaching staff and some of his own team-mates.
The incident, or incidents, have occurred in recent weeks and relate to his professionalism during his recovery from the ankle injury that has ruled him out of action since the first SPL game of the season against Aberdeen on 4 August.
The latest issues have nothing to do with his attendance at the fundraiser for Ryan, which was also attended by other members of the Stokes family, including his publican father John, as well as well-known figures in the Dublin crime scene and members of the Real IRA. Last week, Lennon announced that he had taken action against Stokes for attending the memorial night to honour Ryan, who was due to stand trial next year along with John Stokes for threats with menaces against a rival Dublin publican. On the night, a band played a tribute song including a vow to avenge Ryan’s death. One of Ryan’s enemies in the crime battle in Dublin was shot dead in the city weeks later.
The Irish journalist who first wrote that Stokes had attended the tribute night has received death threats. Stokes himself has also been threatened.
Speaking last week, Lennon said Stokes’ behaviour in attending the function reflected badly on the club. “I am not going to moralise to him, but you cannot damage the reputation of the club,” said Lennon. “He is aware of that now. It has been dealt with internally.” Lennon added: “It is maybe make or break time for him in terms of football.”
Lennon added that Stokes had “taken on board” the club’s stance over the Ryan function. However, the subsequent issues further complicate the player’s Celtic future.