Celtic manager Ronny Deila yesterday insisted that Anthony Stokes still has a future at the club – even as he revealed that “different issues” and not simply a tweet sniping at his treatment by Celtic in Inverness last Sunday had earned Stokes a two-week club suspension.
Asked about interest from other clubs in a player whose one start this season was in August and who is out of contract in the summer, Deila said; “That’s not even on my mind. I want improvement and to see it in Stokes. I think he will be here after January.”
Deila declined to set out Stokes’ earlier indiscretions, and the improvements required from him. “That’s between me and Anthony,” he said. “I think that’s important because we must keep trust in each other.”
Deila appears to retain a surprising amount of trust in Stokes – despite giving the 27-year-old only six games in nine months. When it was suggested the desire to reform Stokes demonstrated he “must believe” the attacker has ability, he snapped: “I don’t believe, I know he has ability. If he didn’t have ability he wouldn’t be here. When he is on top of his game he is a very good football player.
“It’s different things which get in the way of his high standards, every week. To get the best out of himself he needs to change different things about the way he’s living. When things like this come people talk about punishment. That’s more from your culture than my culture.
“But sometimes you’ve got to put your foot down – the team is more important than any individual. If this had been the one and only incident we would have dealt with it without punishment. But it has been several things and now was the time to react. If you don’t react the person can keep on going and what do you tell the other players?”
Deila’s side are scheduled to host Hamilton Accies this afternoon, but expected incessant rain overnight meant a pitch inspection was arranged for 9:30 this morning at Celtic Park. The pitch condition will be less of a concern than the condition of captain Scott Brown. The full extent of the knee injury he succumbed to a fortnight ago will be known shortly.
“He [Brown] will wait for four weeks,” Deila said. “A month later we hope he will be back. If after the first four weeks it’s not going the right way then we will have to operate and he will out for two to three months from that point. I don’t think it will be the season, maybe two or three months from any operation.”