Tom Boyd: Anthony Stokes should win back his place

Former club captain Tom Boyd joins Sister Catherine from St Andrew's Hospice at Celtic Park yesterday to promote the Celtic Charity Foundation's Clover and Dove Ball. Picture: SNS Group

Former club captain Tom Boyd joins Sister Catherine from St Andrew's Hospice at Celtic Park yesterday to promote the Celtic Charity Foundation's Clover and Dove Ball. Picture: SNS Group

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Anthony Stokes last took the field for Celtic when he started the 3-1 victory over Dundee United at Tannadice on 22 August.

The Republic of Ireland striker, whose lack of involvement at club level has seen him drop out of contention for his national team just as Martin O’Neill’s squad claimed a place at Euro 2016, has not scored in 2015, his last goal coming in a 4-1 win over St Mirren last December.

Stokes has 18 months remaining on his contract at Parkhead but the 27-year-old would appear to have no future with the champions as long as Ronny Deila remains as manager. Queries about the former are routinely met by a dismissive shrug from the latter.

Yet former Celtic captain Tom Boyd is convinced that the player, who has scored 76 goals in 191 appearances for the Hoops, still has much to offer and has advised the Dubliner to emulate Leigh Griffiths, another forward whose career with the champions appeared to have hit the buffers not so long ago.

He also struggled to impress the Norwegian, starting only one Premiership match before Christmas. However, his perseverance paid off during the second half of the campaign which ended with Griffiths as Celtic’s leading marksman.

“The perfect example – for so many players, like Callum McGregor, who’s come back in recently – is Leigh, when it comes to the length of time he had to wait for a start,” said Boyd.

“Just look at him now, in terms of the goalscoring form he’s in and the work-rate he’s shown. There will be opportunities for Anthony.

“I don’t see any reason why he would go. He’s been a great player for Celtic. He was obviously frustrated at the weekend at getting stick for just going up there and taking his wages but that certainly isn’t the case with him.

“He’s a very committed player for this football club and he’s apologised for what he’s done. I see down in England that Diego Costa also took the huff for not getting on.

“It will be dealt with. It just shows that Anthony has a passion for the club. You are paid to play football and you want to have an impact.

“I was the same towards the end of my career. I wanted to play football but, obviously, the manager [Martin O’Neill] thought I was rank rotten so he wouldn’t put me on the park.

“That’s unlike Anthony who’s decent and is going to be available. He’s doing the right things: he says he’s doing extra training sessions and that’s all you can do.”

Stokes did himself no favours last weekend when he took to Twitter to whinge about having to head up to the Highlands and then not even be selected for a place on the bench for the win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle. He also moaned about the freezing conditions, which did not go down well with the travelling support who had left Glasgow at the crack of dawn to follow their team.

“Anthony has shown his frustration in the wrong way but there have been plenty of things that players have done that have been misguided,” said Boyd. I remember criticising [Lou Macari] myself on one occasion.

“[Stokes] was then accused of just sitting up picking up wages on the bench but he wants to be out on the football park.

“He’s a professional and that’s the frustrating part because he’s fit and ready but the manager feels he has stronger options at this moment in time.”

Even so, Stokes’ tweet (which was branded “disrespectful” by Deila), combined with the prolonged public dissent exhibited by Kris Commons following his substitution during Celtic’s defeat in Molde, has prompted speculation that the players regard their manager as weak. Boyd disagrees.

“There is no lack of respect because both players have [immediately] come out and apologised. If there was a lack of respect then they wouldn’t have apologised for their actions,” he said.

“It was heat-of-the moment stuff – certainly in the case of Kris, who was disappointed to be taken off.”

One player Boyd, and Deila, would be happy to see the back of is Dutch winger Derk Boerrigter, who has been an unmitigated disaster since signing from Ajax for £3 million in 2013.

He angrily rejected claims that he was injury prone during his first press conference but a hamstring injury led to him being replaced before half-time on his debut and the 29-year-old has scored only once and made just eight starts, the last of which was in May of last year.

Boerrigter last saw first-team action 16 months ago and is currently playing for the under-20s. He is under contract until the end of next season but Boyd believes it would be in the best interests of all parties to pay him off now. “We know he’s not been performing or involved in first-team football so he might be one who is surplus to requirements,” he said. “Maybe they can come to a settlement.”

l Boyd was speaking to publicise a charity Dove and Clover Ball at the Glasgow City Hall on 13 
February, which will raise funds for the Celtic Foundation and the St Andrew’s Hospice.

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