Anthony Stokes is desperate to believe he has a future at Celtic – despite admitting he knows manager Ronny Deila does not rate him.
The striker has sound reason for reaching that conclusion since he was speaking for the first time since making a temporary move to Hibernian, where Deila has allowed him to move on loan until the end of the season.
Celtic agreed loan terms with several clubs, including Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Dundee United, and left Stokes to decide where he wished to go. Stokes revealed he always had his heart set on Hibs, where he scored 24 goals in his first spell. But it is clear he is still stung by Deila’s treatment of him.
“I like him, he is a good fella, but he obviously doesn’t rate me as a footballer because, if he did, I would be in the team,” said Stokes yesterday, when asked about his relationship with Deila. “It is what it is.”
Stokes has not featured for Celtic since a 3-1 win over Dundee United at Tannadice in August. He has not scored a competitive goal for over a year – although he has struck 76 times in total since joining Celtic from Hibs in 2010.
Informed that Easter Road stalwart Lewis Stevenson had revealed how surprised his Celtic-supporting friends were that Stokes was allowed to leave Parkhead, the Irish striker quipped: “Pity they’re not picking the team then, isn’t it?”
Stokes’ obvious dissatisfaction bubbled to the surface in November when he sent out two tweets from Inverness as he anticipated watching yet another game from the stand.
After sarcastically writing how “buzzing” he was at being brought all the way to the Highlands without the prospect of being involved, he added in reply to a supporter who reminded him he is still being well paid: “Who gives a f*** about wages when your (sic) not playing games! It’s all about playing and contributing not picking up a wage.”
Stokes was suspended for two weeks after the outburst, for which he later apologised. He does not feel he has burned his bridges at Celtic, where he still has 18 months left of his contract.
“Listen, you always have to keep positive, and always keep that bit of hope,” he said. “I have every intention of going back to Celtic next year and trying to get into the team. It is the club that I want to stay at so it is as simple as that.”
He is delighted to have been handed the chance to re-ignite his career back at Hibs, where he once prospered under John Hughes. But he admitted it is with a view to doing enough to ensure he is welcomed back to Celtic, whether Deila is still there or not.
“I am thinking about Celtic,” he said. “I’m a Celtic player and there is a year option on my contract and I want to go back there. I want to help Hibs as much as I possibly can and get as close as we can to winning the title. That is one of the main reasons I came here, because it’s an opportunity to win something.
“For me, it’s about doing what I can to help Hibs win the league, but I want to go back to Celtic fit, confident and in the best shape I can be.”
Hibs, meanwhile, will confirm today that another former player has re-joined the club. Kevin Thomson, who left Dundee by mutual consent earlier this month, is expected to sign until the end of the season to supplement Hibs’ options in midfield. The 31-year-old will also help coach the club’s Under-17 and Under-15 sides.