Lewis Stevenson has described Anthony Stokes as a potential “catalyst” en route to winning the Championship title, while admitting some of his Celtic-supporting friends still can’t believe Hibs landed the talented striker.
Stevenson is the only first-team regular still at the club from Stokes’ first spell at HIbs, which ended in 2010. Stokes has since gone on to star for Celtic but has fallen out of favour under Ronny Deila. Now he has been lured back to Easter Road on loan to complement Hibs’ options up front as they look to overhaul leaders Rangers.
Stevenson remembers being turned inside out by Stokes in a game against Celtic, helping convince him Hibs are getting a better player back.
“It was at Easter Road, Pat Fenlon was in charge,” recalled Stevenson of a 1-1 draw when Stokes played on the left of midfield and didn’t give his opposite man a minute’s peace.
More experience combined with a fierce willingness to show people his career is not on a downward spiral are reasons why Stevenson believes 27 year-old Stokes will be even more influential than in his original spell at the club.
“He is going to want to prove that he is good enough and still the player he was when he was banging them in for Celtic,” he said. “I played right-back against him one time when he was playing left midfield. That is probably one of the hardest games I have had. His movement was very good. I just remember it felt the longest game I had played. He can go both ways, he is clever, he is a good finisher and he sees things like the intelligent footballer he is. He has got a bit of everything for a striker.
“He can obviously score goals, but I think he can make goals as well. I can remember playing against him when he was with Celtic and the way he linked up with other players was good and hard to play against.
“I am sure if he has done it in the top league he can do it in this league as well,” he continued. “I have spoken to a few Celtic fans and they think he is good enough to play for them. To have him at Hibs is amazing. Hopefully he can give us a wee boost until the end of the season.
“We have had a couple of draws and a defeat against Rangers and that has kind of slowed us down a bit. He can be the catalyst to keep us going until the end of the season.”
Stevenson remembers Stokes as something of a talisman during his first spell at Hibs.
“Even when he wasn’t playing well in games he managed to score goals for Hibs,” he said. “There have been a few times where that has happened to us this season and I am sure his little extra bit of quality will help. He doesn’t just score goals he can also make them. I am sure the strikers here will enjoy playing alongside him.”
Rather than feel threatened by Stokes’ arrival, Stevenson believes Jason Cummings, who has already scored 17 times this season, will thrive in the company of his new tea-mmate.
“Jason will learn a lot from Stokesy coming in,” he said. “There are five or six strikers who can step up and play. Either way, whoever plays with Stokesy it will work.”
Meanwhile, Stokes’ trial over an alleged assault on an Elvis impersonator in a Dublin nightclub has been postponed. The trial will now take place on 22 November.