Anthony Stokes has left Livingston by mutual consent, just over three weeks after he signed and without having played for the Premiership side.
Blaming the punishing hours of training on the club’s artificial surface, it is yet another messy conclusion to a contract for the former Sunderland, Celtic and Hibernian striker, who has struggled to settle since the ignominious end to his third spell at Easter Road in 2018.
The 32-year-old, who has not played a competitive game since February after he went AWOL from the Iranian side Persepolis. He has reportedly been fighting a losing battle with his fitness, and both the West Lothian side and the player have agreed to call it quits and terminate his contract.
“Whilst trying to get the player in shape, it’s been extremely frustrating for all of us, staff and player alike, that we can’t seem to get the intense training needed into the player,” explained David Martindale, the club’s head of football operations who cited the often-controversial pitch as a factor.
“In all honesty, it’s not quite worked out in terms of the on-field ball work and intense training schedule we had put in place. He is struggling to adapt to training 2-3 hours per day on the AstroTurf surface – we all know it doesn’t and won’t suit everyone. Of course, Anthony knew the surface we had in place but each player adapts to that differently and you can’t know how your body will feel adapting to it until you’ve been out there and played or trained on it frequently. We know it isn’t for everyone and sadly, that’s been the case for Anthony.
“It’s a real shame that the Livingston FC fans didn’t get to see Anthony wear the No 9 shirt for Livingston on the field,” lamented Martindale. “In the short spells we did get a chance to work with him, you could certainly see the quality he possesses.”
With a trail of clubs behind him in a career that has served up almost as many controversies as goals and glory, the Irishman had been hoping to prove himself when he arrived back in Scottish football looking for a fresh start.
While he has league titles and cup medals to look back on, he accepted that time is running out on a playing career, that has reaped international recognition but perhaps faltered more often than it should due to his attitude rather than his undoubted aptitude.
With a tarnished reputation, his former Scottish Cup-winning Hibs colleague and current Livingston captain Marvin Bartley had described his arrival at the Tony Macaroni Arena as “last-chance saloon”.
Stokes did not dispute that, saying he was “realistic about it” but maintained he still had miles on the clock adding that “when I was in Iran, I was probably the fittest I’ve been in my life”. Lockdown, he said, had robbed him of that. But he figured he would be match fit within a few weeks.
“I took a couple of months off and I sort of, not let myself go, but I wasn’t training to the same intensity I normally would or did when I was abroad. But I’ve now got the bit back between my teeth and I want to get back into my football now.
“I don’t look to prove anything to anyone else. I want to prove it to myself. If I get myself in the best shape possible, I am fairly confident that I can go out and perform to a level that will be a decent standard.”
Things haven’t worked out that way, though, leaving Livingston looking at other attacking options to fill the void left by the departure of talismanic forward Lyndon Dykes as they look to push away from the relegation zone and back up the league table
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