Anthony Stokes is back in contention for tonight’s trip to Dundee but that does not mean that his manager is willing to simply sweep his most recent misdemeanors under the carpet.
Hibernian head coach Neil Lennon said that the wayward forward had resumed training with the first team and would be considered for a place in the squad but the player’s long-term future remains uncertain.
The Republic of Ireland international was a notable absentee as Hibs succumbed to a Scottish Cup derby defeat on Sunday but his boss revealed that the striker, who had been missing since the team’s return from their winter training trip to Portugal, had requested the time off.
But without Stokes, the Leith side looked shy of creative options in the final third as they suffered that weekend loss, and the manager said that he is willing to look at addressing that during what remains of the transfer window.
In the meantime he said he may look to Stokes for onfield inspiration at Dens Park this evening in the hope that the player feels the need to make amends for his off-field indiscretions with a performance on the pitch.
“I think everyone will be looking for a bit of payback – if he plays. He owes everybody something.”
The player, who scored twice in the 2016 Scottish Cup final, to help the club dislodge the monkey from their back, has tested the patience of his employers since returning to the club in August. His disregard of the curfew during the training camp in Portugal appeared to be the final straw for a manager who has regularly vouched for him in the past and cut him some slack.
But his poor attitude has caused annoyance in the dressing room and prompted frustration in his bosses who feel that the balance of what he brings to the side compared to the problems and negative headlines he attracts has now tilted unfavourably.
Which is why they are happy to encourage interest from the likes of Charlton and afar.
“Eventually, whether I pick him or not, he has to have a good look at himself,” stressed Lennon, when asked if he would play a part this evening and remain part of his plans for the remainder of the season.
“I’ve been saying this for a long time, the penny either drops or it doesn’t and eventually the game moves on and I have other players to consider as well.
“There has been no more interest but that might change over the next ten days.”
But the fact that Lennon is actively looking to add reinforcements before the transfer window closes suggests he no longer wants to rely on Stokes, describing a suggestion that the main target will be someone to feature strongly at the top end of his team as fair comment.
“If we are to bring players in we may have to move players out, either on loan or permanently. There is nothing to report right now but something always comes up that might tempt you.”
There have already been three new additions, with goalkeeper Scott Bain, forward Jamie Maclaren and former Hearts full-back Faycal Rherras all brought in to bolster Hibs’ push for a European qualifying place and as high a finish as possible in the Premiership.
Rherras was on the bench at the weekend but is enthusiastic about featuring in a team he describes as better than the one he left on the other side of the city.
“I had a lot of problems [at Hearts] last year. Under Robbie Neilson I played every time but then I came back from the African Cup and with the new coach Ian Cathro I had a lot of problems. I don’t know why I wasn’t playing, that’s the problem, because every time I wanted to speak with him, he didn’t want to speak with me so eventually I just thought ‘let’s forget this’. I am trying to forget all that and concentrate on now.
“I am very determined to do well with my new team. I think they are a better team than Hearts. They try to play football. I have trained three times with the team and I am very happy because all the players try to play football and I am very happy about that.”