Anthony Stokes has made it clear that he is desperate for regular first-team football and he could be thrown straight into the action against Falkirk tomorrow if, as expected, he completes his loan switch from Celtic to Hibernian today.
The Easter Road boss, Alan Stubbs, revealed that a deal had been agreed with the Premiership leaders but said that one or two issues had to be ironed out with the player. But, despite competition from top-flight teams as well as some English clubs, the Championship boss said he was hopeful that an agreement would be reached with the 27-year-old Irishman, who scored 24 goals in 47 games during his last spell in a Hibs shirt.
“Things are progressing. It’s common knowledge we’ve shown an interest and we’re hopeful something can be done,” he said. “We could get it done [ahead of the Falkirk match] if everyone agrees to everything in the deal and I wouldn’t have a problem putting him in whatsoever.
“He brings goals and knows what he’s coming into. I’m sure he has spoken to a few of the lads here. We’ll give him a platform and a stage to perform on and what he does on that stage is entirely up to Anthony.”
Sitting third in the Championship table, in a solid position to push for promotion, victory over Falkirk tomorrow would elevate them to second place, with a game in hand over Peter Houston’s men and, while Stubbs expects Falkirk to maintain a presence, he knows that a win at Falkirk would leave them perfectly poised to challenge Rangers for the league lead.
“I said weeks and months ago that Falkirk would be in there,” he said. “All the talk has been about ourselves and Rangers. But they have been picking up results week in week out. This will be a difficult game. But it will be difficult for them as well. Our squads and the quality within them over the course might prove a deciding factor. But as we speak right now they have a huge say in what is going to happen.”
Stubbs has always stated a strong belief in the squad of players already accumulated but, with the deal close to reaching a conclusion, he acknowledged the difference a player like Stokes could make.
“I think if you’re looking at the big picture and you ask have we got a chance of doing it, the answer is yes. But, do we have a better chance [of winning the league ] with Anthony Stokes? I think the answer is pretty obvious. There’s a long way to go but he definitely increases our chances of trying to do it.”
For that reason, it is a deal brought into question after Celtic revealed that the absence of Rangers in the top tier has cost the Parkhead club around £10 million per year. The acquisition of Stokes would surely enhance Hibs’ chances of winning automatic promotion at the expense of Mark Warburton’s team and possibly lead to another season without an Old Firm tussle but Stubbs said that while some may be surprised at Celtic facilitating that, they are forgetting the player’s role in the matter.
“In an ideal world this season I hope that we go up and there’s a good chance Rangers will go up too. That outcome, or equation, is not a question then.
“But Anthony has a say in this as well. Obviously, Celtic are the parent club and they are to a certain degree in control of things but Anthony has a say in it as well. He has been allowed to speak to Dundee United and Inverness but looking at John’s comments it probably won’t happen at Inverness. Mixu is probably hopeful but we’re hopeful Anthony will come here.”
The lure of a league title, as well as a shot at two pieces of silverware, including an Edinburgh derby in the next round of the Scottish Cup, serve as extra incentives and, after that tweet expressing his dissatisfaction at the lack of involvement at Celtic, so does the hope of first-team football.
“There are lots of things. His ability is not in question and we feel he will give us a greater opportunity to achieve what we want to do. But we do have a couple of decent games for him to look forward to if we do get it across the line.
“Speaking to the lads who know him, he just wants to try and move on and play regularly. We will give him that opportunity. He’s not just going to walk into the team, he’s going to have to earn his place. But he’ll be allowed to express himself in the team.”