Celtic bid for Anthony Stokes but Hibs want more

CELTIC are closing in on the signing of Hibernian striker Anthony Stokes. The Old Firm side have made a bid - thought to be around £800,000 - and are looking to secure the services of the player who scored just two goals less than Kris Boyd in the SPL last season before the transfer window closes next week.

Celtic target Anthony Stokes

The Glasgow side previously attempted to lure the former Arsenal youngster to Parkhead in 2007 after he impressed during a loan spell at Falkirk, netting 16 goals in 18 league and cup appearances but he walked away from that deal and joined Premiership side Sunderland instead.

Stokes' career stalled down south but having reunited with former manager John Hughes at Hibs last summer he has rediscovered his form and, after his 21 league goals last term, Celtic have renewed their interest.

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It was only last weekend that the player, who has two years left on his current contract, reasserted his contentment to bide his time at Hibs.

He said: "I'm happy here, I really am.

"You are never going to be at one club for the rest of your career, but you are always going to get speculation, and even if Celtic had never even thought about signing me, if you're an Irish lad scoring goals people are going to make the link with Celtic.

"I've enjoyed my football here and I genuinely think I can do even better this year because I'm fitter." However, it is understood the player is keen to stake a claim for a regular place in the Republic of Ireland international side and recognises that a move to a club able to challenge for the league title would enhance his chances of making the Irish national side. Having made it clear that personal terms could easily be agreed, the decision now rests with Hibs chairman Rod Petrie.

Petrie is not expected to accede to any request within the next 48 hours and, with time running out on transfer dealings, he is likely to pressure Celtic into raising their offer to at least 1million.

Lennon had hoped to land a big name player such as Craig Bellamy to feast on the glut of goal chances being created by his team in their opening domestic games, but after that deal fell through his focus switched to Stokes, who opened his scoring account for this season with a goal against Motherwell in Hibs' opening league fixture.

His instincts for goal have impressed the Celtic manager and the 22-year-old also fits in with his desire to sign players who understand the club and what is needed to succeed in the SPL.

The player has admitted he regrets his decision to snub Celtic three years ago, saying: "I probably went for money when I signed for Sunderland and it did nothing for my career. If I could change it now, of course I would."

But having won fame for scoring the fastest goal in Scottish Premier League history, after just 12.4 seconds, in a game against Celtic's rivals Rangers in 2009, as well as the award for goal of the season last term for another spectacular effort against the Ibrox side, Celtic seem more than ready to forgive and forget.

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Is Stokes is allowed to leave Easter Road, it would leave Hughes with limited striking options, and he may well be forced to deploy Derek Riordan as a centre forward again, instead of the left-sided role he often occupies.

As well as Riordan, Colin Nish would be the only recognised first team striker currently at the club, as Kurtis Byrne is out on loan at East Fife.

Hughes has been running the rule over a couple of trialists in recent weeks, but has not yet followed up with an offer. Dutchman Romano Denneboom spent a period training with Hibs at their East Mains complex and the 27-year-old forward is still waiting to see if he has done enough to win a move to the SPL, while Slovenian striker Darijo Biscan returned to his homeland with any hopes of a deal apparently dead.