Gary Holt stows away Anthony Stokes’ baggage as he bids to get best from signing

Livi manager relies on his squad to ensure itinerant striker does not step out of line

Anthony Stokes signed for Livingston after manager Gary Holt first checked his credentials with Marvin Bartley and Efe Ambrose. Picture: SNS
Anthony Stokes signed for Livingston after manager Gary Holt first checked his credentials with Marvin Bartley and Efe Ambrose. Picture: SNS

Finding a carbon copy of Lyndon Dykes was never the intention, according to Livingston manager Gary Holt, but finding a way to ensure the West Lothian side can still pose an attacking threat without him was. Which is why he has moved swiftly to bring in two new strikers.

While 24-year-old German Lars Lokotsch has been drafted in without much fanfare, such are Anthony Stokes exploits in the Scottish game, his arrival in West Lothian has grabbed more attention,

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There have been notable achievements on the pitch with Hibs and Celtic, winning seven trophies with the Parkhead side and helping the Leith outfit end a 114-year Scottish Cup drought by netting twice in the 2016 final.

But, in a stop-start career, arguably sullied by inauspicious endings to contracts, events off the park have been an unwelcome distraction.

Having addressed those issues with the 32-year-old Irishman, Holt believes any baggage he is carrying has been carefully stowed away.

“We have had a chat and he knows where we are coming from,” said Holt. “He is at an age where he wants to play football and wants to enjoy his work and I have said to him: ‘when you come in that door, we demand your full attention. Same as you get from us, the staff. You all get my full attention but you don’t know what is going on in my life and I don’t need to know the ins and outs of your life’.

“Sometimes you need a chance, you need someone to give you an opportunity. He knows where we are coming from and how we work and we have a very honest, good bunch of boys who will tell you if you step out of line. They don’t let anyone get away with anything.

“He knows he will have to put in the work every single day. He doesn’t get let off with it because he is Anthony Stokes and he has played here and there and done this and that.”

Before signing the former Arsenal starlet on a one-year deal, Holt took advantage of the intel provided by captain Marvin Bartley, inset, and Efe Ambrose, who have both played with him in the past.

“It has helped having them here to speak to before you make the signing. You want to find out what he is really like,” Holt added. “You guys get the juicy bits but we deal with the day to day and how he is as a person. That is what we spoke about and when you meet Anthony, he comes across as someone who wants to be given the chance to do what he is very good at. Hopefully we will get the best out of him.”

Missing out on pre-season, the best is still a few weeks off, as Livingston look for the best way to manage Stokes’ return to match fitness. Having spent a nomadic couple of years playing in Greece, Turkey and Iran, he has kicked his heels since he absconded Iran, before Covid-19 lockdown restrictions could be imposed.

“It’s not so much a gamble, it’s more a case of when we can get him up to match fitness,” said Holt. “We know it is going to take a bit of time. But his pedigree, his quality is something I don’t think we’ve got within the group, certainly from what I have seen in training over the last few days.

“He sees pictures that others don’t see and gets shots away when you might be thinking ‘pass’. So when you can add someone of that quality to your group, it can only be a good thing.

“He has a quick brain, a quickness of thought, that others don’t have and we like the fact he gives us that variation. So, bring him in and big Lars, they both have something different and hopefully they will enhance the group.”

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