Neil Lennon says Stokes can earn longer stay

CELTIC manager Neil Lennon last night insisted it is up to Anthony Stokes whether the striker remains at the club beyond the summer.

The Irishman, whose season has been blighted by injury and personal issues, was an impressive figure in his club’s 6-2 rout of Dundee United as he netted a double in what was only his second league start of the campaign.

“If he keeps playing like that, it’s not a difficult decision at all,” said Lennon of the possibility the club could take up a one-year option on the player’s contract, which expires in the summer. “I have always liked him and he’s an important player. He’s a goalscorer, there are aspects of his game he needs to improve on and if he puts his mind to it he can be a very good player.”

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The 24-year-old Dubliner, signed in a £1 million deal from Hibernian in 2010, was stopped from answering questions on his contract situation by the club’s PR staff but did acknowledge the challenge the next four months presents him, as well as the four games before the second leg of Celtic’s Champions League last 16 tie against Juventus.

“I want to make up for a bit of lost time, score as many goals as I possibly can until the end of the season and have an impact. I know I need to perform in training and when I get on the pitch. That’s what I intend to do. Of course, the Champions League are the big games that everyone wants be involved in and I’m no different. Hopefully I can be included in the squad.”