Hibs have made an approach to take the out-of-favour Celtic striker on loan for the remainder of the season, a move that would make sense for all parties, as Craig Fowler writes
1. Stokes is another level talent
Hibernian are hoarding strikers in the same manner a doomsday fantasist stocks up on canned food. Realistically, with Jason Cummings, James Keatings, Dominique Malonga, Henri Anier, Chris Dagnall, Farid El Alagui, Martin Boyle and Islam Feruz all at the club, the last thing Hibs should be looking to bring in is another striker.
However, there’s a huge difference between having James Keatings, for example, and Anthony Stokes. Keatings is a very good Championship player; Stokes is one of the best strikers in the country.
His touch, technique and football intelligence have all developed since he left Easter Road in 2010. So he doesn’t just represent an addition goal threat, he should make Hibernian a better team overall.
2. A Cummings/Stokes partnership is a frightening prospect
Based on Stokes’ time with Hibs for just over a season in 2009/10, fans could maybe harbour some concerns that he and Cummings wouldn’t fit together as a strike partnership. But that was a different Stokes.
He spent time on the left wing at Celtic last season, and while he wouldn’t win any awards for his performances, he still justified his place on a team that won a Premiership and League Cup double.
He’s not only matured technically, but also intelligently on the park, now playing more for the team.
If he’s happy to play the role of facilitator to Cummings, while also getting his fair share of goals by carving up Championship defences due to his experience and superior ability, then this could really boost Hibs’ goal tally.
After all, despite the array of attacking talent at their disposal, Hibs have still scored fewer goals than Falkirk so far this season.
3. The striker will get much needed match action
Stokes hasn’t played a competitive match in a Celtic shirt since August 22. That is a startling fact. This isn’t even a particularly strong Celtic team, especially in attack behind Leigh Griffiths, and yet he can’t get anywhere near the team. It’s not a case of him just being down the pecking order, he’s not even recognised by the management staff as an option any more.
Based on the Irishman’s career and what we’ve seen of Nadir Ciftci and Carlton Cole this season, he should be a better option. But the thinking of Ronny Deila and company is that they’ve seen all there is to see from Stokes and they want to move on.
Regardless of where he wants his next career move to be, Stokes has to get back playing at least until the summer. He’s 27, in his prime, he can’t afford to waste almost an entire year sitting in the stands.
4. Celtic rid themselves of a potential distraction
As the striker so ably demonstrated with a couple of ill-advised tweets, he’s not one to to act the consummate professional and sit quietly in the background, waiting for his chance.
If the management staff are determined to hand any available opportunities in the first-team to Ciftci and Cole, then Stokes’ discontentment is only going to grow. And while this season is already viewed as a disappointment by Celtic fans, it’ll be looked upon in even harsher terms should they fail to lift at least two of the three remaining trophies up for grabs.
With something still to focus on, Celtic will want to keep a happy camp, and ridding themselves of an unhappy frontman may be the best way to maintain harmony.
5. Stokes would get to stay in Scotland
Why would Stokes not just return south of the border if he’s not getting a game? There have been numerous sides linked with the player since last summer and yet he’s remained at Celtic Park, despite no indication from the actions of the coaching staff that they still want him.
The fact that he’s not played since August may suggest Celtic were keeping him around the squad in the hope of getting the best deal, then took the hump when Stokes made it clear he wasn’t going anywhere.
If he wants to stay in Scotland and earn his current wage, then his best option is to see out his current deal (which runs until 2017) while spending time on loan at other SPFL clubs.
6. It’s a real statement of intent from Hibs
The early indications are that Hibs fans would be delighted to see Stokes back at the club. And why wouldn’t they be? Not only it is a signing that improves the team, it’s also a big name; a guaranteed hero that can really galvanise the support.
It shows the club are 100 per cent determined to get themselves back to the top flight this season and they will do all they can to make that happen.
There’s also the small matter of an Edinburgh derby coming up as well.
7. Celtic would be pleasing their own support
This might appeal to the more childish aspects of fanaticism. Regardless, sending an unwanted player on loan to the challengers of your biggest rivals, especially when said player is highly likely to improve the challengers, is a sure-fire way to make your fans happy, or at least give them a good laugh for an afternoon. And the Celtic board have not been doing an awful lot of either recently.
Besides, if Stokes can score the goals that prevent Rangers from winning the second tier crown then he’ll shift himself into ‘legend’ status among a support base that’s currently happy to see the back of him.
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