Saturday 22 October 2016

Croatian midfielder Ljuban Crepulja handed trial by Celtic

Published 21/01/2016 | 16:41

Anthony Stokes has been reassured over his Celtic prospects
Anthony Stokes has been reassured over his Celtic prospects

Celtic manager Ronny Deila has taken Croatian midfielder Ljuban Crepulja on trial as he looks to strengthen his squad - which could still have a place for Anthony Stokes.

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Crepulja will train with Celtic for "maybe a week" after the 22-year-old defensive midfielder arrived from Croatian top-flight side Slaven Belupo as Deila looks to add to his recent capture of Denmark defender Erik Sviatchenko, who is not yet ready to make his debut against St Johnstone on Saturday.

Deila dismissed the prospect of Stefan Johansen leaving Parkhead while offering Stokes encouragement that he can win his way back into the first-team plans at Celtic once his loan spell with Hibernian ends.

The 27-year-old only made two appearances for Celtic this season before joining Hibs until the end of the campaign, but Deila hopes he comes back fighting for his place next season.

"I hope he scores a lot of goals, does well, and he comes back to us in confident and good shape," the Norwegian said.

"There is always a way back into the team. It's about sacrifice and making the changes you have to do. That's for every player.

"If you don't change then no team will take you because there is always someone who wants to get better and sacrifice everything, then your time is up.

"But with Stokesy, everyone knows his potential and it's just getting things right now. He has the opportunity to play and I'm happy for him, and I hope he comes back in the best shape he can be."

Inverness were among several teams to have enquired about Stokes but Deila revealed his destination - with Rangers' Championship title rivals - was down to the player.

"If he does well he will makes Hibs better and that's what Hibs are hoping for as well," Deila said. "There is nothing new in that.

"Every league and every club, things will happen in January. The best team will go up and we will see who the best team are.

"Anthony wanted to go there and that's very important. If he has motivation to play, and also he feels he has good communication with the manager, and that he is going to be important to the team, then it's a good start for him.

"His goal as well is to come back and be an important player for Celtic.

"He loves playing football and he is a brilliant player as well. This is something he wanted and I'm happy for him, and I think it's going to be a good thing for everyone. The goal is for him to come back and play for Celtic."

Crepulja was given permission by his club to travel to Glasgow on Tuesday.

Deila said: "He's a player that we have watched a little bit and that we want to see more of. He is training with us and we will see during the week what we will do further."

Aston Villa were linked with a £5million move for Johansen but Deila has no plans to sell his fellow Norwegian.

"We want to keep every player," he said. "Things are coming up every day that I haven't heard about it and no-one at the club has heard about either. Stefan Johansen is staying here, we want to keep him."

Celtic are aiming to build on their 8-1 midweek demolition of Hamilton when they host St Johnstone, and Deila has options after Gary Mackay-Steven impressed on his first Ladbrokes Premiership start since October, while Scott Allan is pushing for his first league start after replacing weekend injury doubt Tom Rogic at half-time.

Deila said: "It's a sign we have a good squad, we train them well and everyone is ready when we give them a chance.

"We also had subs coming on making a difference. Everyone has to perform when they get the chance. I was delighted with the performance of the players on Tuesday and that's the way to get more playing time as well."

Press Association

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