'He has to have a good look at himself... I have other players to consider as well'

Irish striker Anthony Stokes has received criticism for his behaviour by Hibs boss Neil Lennon.

Anthony Stokes (file pic).
Anthony Stokes (file pic).
Image: Alan Rennie

IRISH STRIKER ANTHONY Stokes could be set for a recall for Hibernian tonight, but his long-term future at the club looks uncertain.

Hibs boss Neil Lennon revealed that the 29-year-old striker requested time off recently, and had been absent since a return from a winter training trip in Portugal, missing last weekend’s disappointing 1-0 Scottish Cup loss to Hearts.

The striker, who signed for Hibs from Blackburn last August, has had off-the-field problems since re-joining the club he spent time both on loan at in 2016 and permanently between 2009 and 2010.

Stokes missed the curfew during the team’s trip in Portugal, prompting criticism from Lennon, who previously worked with the player during his time in charge at Celtic.

“I think everyone will be looking for a bit of payback — if he plays,” Lennon said ahead of his team’s trip to Dundee. “He owes everybody something.”

According to The Scotsman, Stokes’ poor attitude has been a source of annoyance in the club’s dressing room, while it has also reportedly led to a falling out with Lennon.

Behavioural problems have been a recurring theme in the player’s career. Considered a footballer of huge promise at underage level, he joined Arsenal from Shelbourne and broke into the North London outfit’s reserve team at just 15 years of age.

Stokes featured for the Gunners in a League Cup game in 2005, but otherwise found first-team football hard to come by at the club.

However, having impressed during a subsequent loan stint at Falkirk with 16 goals in 18 appearances, he joined Sunderland for £2 million in 2007.

Yet Stokes’ time at the Stadium of Light was not a success, despite helping the Black Cats gain promotion to the Premier League in his first season there.

In comments that would echo Lennon’s later criticisms, then-manager Roy Keane issued a warning to the 19-year-old striker, after he was banned from visiting the local Glass Spider nightclub.

He could be a top player or he could be playing non-league in five years,” Keane said at the time.

Since then, Stokes has impressed sporadically — a run of 21 goals in 37 games during his first spell at Hibs in the 2009-10 season ultimately earned him a move to Celtic, where he managed a creditable 58 goals in 135 appearances with the club, in addition to winning four league titles and two domestic cups during his time at Parkhead.

After rejoining Hibs on loan in the 2015-16 campaign, he managed five goals in 14 league appearances, in addition to scoring twice and delivering a man-of-the-match display as they beat Rangers 3-2 in the Scottish Cup final.

That form led him to join Blackburn, but he found first-team football hard to come by in the Championship, managing only one goal in eight league appearances.

Since returning to Hibs at the start of this season, Stokes has registered 11 goals in 21 appearances in all competitions, helping the club climb to fourth place in the Scottish Premiership.

Despite his obvious talent, however, Lennon’s latest remarks suggest patience is wearing thin at the club on account of the striker’s off-field indiscretions.

League One outfit Charlton and an unnamed Polish side have been linked with a move for the player, who won nine Ireland caps between 2007 and 2014.

“Eventually, whether I pick him or not, he has to have a good look at himself,” Lennon said, when asked whether Stokes was still part of his plans.

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.

What are they
really like?

Rare insights on sport's biggest names from the writers who know them best. Listen to Behind the Lines podcast.

Become a Member

“There has been no more interest but that might change over the next 10 days.”

Lennon added that the club were looking to “bring in an attacking player if we can” in the January transfer window and appeared to criticise the Irish striker’s lack of professionalism.

“For every player, it is the same premise: it is your livelihood and what you are paid to do and you have to act accordingly,” he added.

“Sacrifices have to be made and there has to be a dedication to your game.

“We have all had to do that and sometimes players cross the line and that’s understandable, but sometimes they cross the line too many times and they have to be responsible for their actions.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

Pep in for €65m-rated La Liga defender and all today’s transfer gossip>

‘It was great to be able to feel like a footballer again’: Coleman savours Everton return>

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel