Wednesday 26 July 2017

'Mature' Stokes hopes to settle at Celtic after £1.2m switch

Jamie Holland

ANTHONY STOKES signed a four-year contract with Celtic yesterday after completing a reported £1.2m switch from Hibernian -- and the Dubliner believes his decision to turn the Bhoys down as a teenager means he has arrived at Parkhead a more mature person and better player.

Stokes chose Sunderland in January 2007 after then Black Cats manager Roy Keane drove to Scotland to persuade him to reject a move to Celtic.

He endured a largely unhappy spell on and off the park on Wearside, netting five goals in 38 games before being loaned out to Crystal Palace and Sheffield United, but rejuvenated his career following a move to Hibernian last summer, with his 23-goal return earning him another chance to sign for his boyhood heroes.

And the 22-year-old is confident he is now in a better position to establish himself as a Celtic player.

"I look upon the move down south positively," he said. "It was a good experience for me down there and hopefully I'm coming here a better player.

Mistakes

"I went to Sunderland and made a lot of mistakes. I'm glad I didn't do that here because I wouldn't have the opportunity that I have today. I was probably a bit immature then."

Stokes knows that he owes a lot to Hibs boss John Hughes, who signed him for the second time last year.

The Dubliner netted 16 goals in 18 games while on loan at Falkirk from Arsenal in 2006 and the former Bairns boss revived his career at Easter Road.

"I knew I was going to have to start from the bottom again and build myself up," added Stokes, who is on Ireland U-21 international duty this week. "I wasn't playing any games, even for the reserves. I was lucky a club like Hibs came in for me.

"I was sitting in Sunderland rotting away and as soon as Hibs came in for me, I knew it would be a good move.

"The gaffer (Hughes) kick-started my career when I went on loan -- I was only 17."

Now Stokes wants to settle at Celtic after making first-team appearances for six different clubs in his short career.

"Hopefully I can do well and settle here," said Stokes. "If it was up to me I would sign a contract for the rest of my career."

Irish Independent

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