Celtic assistant John Collins believes a loan spell for Anthony Stokes under the wing of long-time mentor John Hughes in the Highlands could be the means to revive the Irishman’s dormant career.
Collins confirmed yesterday that the 27-year-old would be farmed out by the Scottish champions on the back of only two senior appearances this season and a recent two-week suspension for unspecified indiscretions, but maintained that did not mean the door closing on the errant forward at Parkhead. “There is always a way back for any player,” the Celtic No 2 said.
Collins sees the route to redemption as a high road and said friend and former colleague Hughes had been “nipping” his ear about taking Stokes to Inverness Caledonian Thistle. The likely desire of Celtic to have Stokes’ wages paid during a six-month loan period would, Collins accepted, make other interested parties such as Championship side Leeds United a better financial fit, but he believes for a football fit it would be difficult to better a tie-up with Hughes.
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“There are a number of clubs interested in taking him [Stokes] on loan so he will go out on loan,” the Celtic assistant said. “He wants to go out and play matches and we think that is a good idea. He won’t be forced to go somewhere he doesn’t want to go. That is not possible and it wouldn’t do anybody any favours, but I am sure he will have his own opinion about where he wants to go and we won’t stand in his way.
“The wages side is part of it. It has to be a club where he is more or less guaranteed a starting place to get up his match fitness.
The door is always open. The manager and Anthony have decided it would be good for him to get some game time.John Collins
“Yogi put him on the map at Falkirk and ignited his career and then when he was back at Hibs he re-ignited his career. It has proved in the past to be a good combination. Let’s just say there’s been one or two phone calls from Yogi but I can understand why he wants Stokesy. I think Inverness would be a good club for Stokesy. They play a very similar style of football to us.
“Stokesy has a lot of talent but he has to get game time. He hasn’t had it with us and he needs it. It is up to him to go somewhere, get his game time, get his head down, get re-focused on his football and thinking about football only.”
Celtic manager Ronny Deila was unavailable for media duties yesterday because he was working on transfer targets, according to Collins, with Celtic’s squad numbers as they have prepared for their Scottish Cup tie at Stranraer tomorrow swelled by the presence of trialists Kristoffer Ajer and Andrei Peteleu.
The 17-year-old, 6ft 5in Norwegian Ajer was joined by 23-year-old Romanian right-back Peteleu at Celtic’s training ground yesterday.
Collins, though, was circumspect about any imminent deals for the pair. It is believed that Ajer, who Collins considers has the stature to play in central defence as well as the midfield role he has been deployed in by club Start, could be acquired for a fee of around £400,000. It is unclear the situation with Peteleu, with the player reported to be under contract to Petrolul Ploieti, while Collins described him as a free agent who had been identified by the club’s coaching department.
Celtic’s assistant provided a glowing reference for Ajer that fits with the towering teenager having become the Norwegian top flight’s youngest captain at the age of 16. “He’s here for a week and once that’s over we’ll sit down and decide if we think he’s good enough and if we can do a deal. You can tell he’s a wonderful professional, he looks great and is smiling, happy and positive. He’s very mature for a young boy.”