Hibs aim to make it as tough as possible for Celtic to grab Anthony Stokes

HIBS today remained tight-lipped over claims striker Anthony Stokes was poised to join Celtic while making it clear the Glasgow outfit will face a tough battle to win the Republic of Ireland star's signature.

Although reports claimed 22-year-old Stokes was due in Glasgow for a medical today, the Easter Road club remained adamant such stories were, in their eyes, nothing more than speculation as they issued a curt "no comment". Celtic are said to be ready to pay between 800,000 and 1.4 million for the services of the hitman who scored 23 goals last season, just two fewer than Rangers ace Kris Boyd, but Parkhead chief executive Peter Lawwell knows from past experiences that Hibs chairman Rod Petrie is one of the Scottish game's toughest negotiatiors.

Petrie dug in his heels when Celtic came sniffing about Steven Fletcher, the Scotland striker finally clinching a 3.5m move to English side Burnley before completing a 6.5m switch to Wolves this summer, a deal which landed Hibs a further windfall. Hibs are also under no pressure to sell despite investing heavily in the new East Stand which opened last weekend and relaying and widening the Easter Road pitch.

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Celtic failed in a previous bid to lure Stokes to Glasgow in 2007 as he impressed during a loan spell with Falkirk, the Dublin-born youngster opting instead for what proved to be an ill-fated move to Sunderland before rejoining boss John Hughes in the Capital.

Only last weekend Stokes, who has two years remaining on his contract, revealed he was content at Easter Road saying: "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 thought about signing me, if you're an Irish lad scoring goals people are going to make the link with Celtic."

While it is understood no formal offer has been made by Celtic to Hibs, boss Neil Lennon is keen to add to his side's firepower although it remains to be seen if his budget will be reassessed in the light of an early Europa League exit, the Glasgow outfit humbled 4-0 by Dutch club Utrecht last night.

The defeat is thought to have cost Celtic some 5m in income, half the fee gained from the transfer of Stokes' international team-mate Aiden McGeady to Spartak Moscow effectively wiped out. However, Hughes will be dismayed at such strong speculation linking Stokes with a move with the transfer window due to slam shut at midnight on Monday, leaving him little time to bring in a replacement.

Hughes is already on record as saying he believes he needs a further striker to augment his squad even with the presence of Stokes but should the former Arsenal kid depart he'd be left with only Derek Riordan and Colin Nish as recognised frontmen with Kurtis Byrne currently on loan at East Fife.

Hughes has already cast his eye over Dutch forward Romano Denneboom and Slovenian striker Darijo Biscan in recent weeks without making a move as he attempts to strengthen his striking options.

The proximity of the transfer deadline could, however, also work in Hibs' favour, testing just how much Celtic would be willing to pay with Hughes, while adamant he doesn't want to lose any of his players, admitting that "business is business" with every player having his price.