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Anthony stoked for a home run

Former international puts wandering days behind him


Anthony Stokes celebrates scoring the injury-time winner against Dundee United in the 2013 Scottish Cup semi-final

Anthony Stokes celebrates scoring the injury-time winner against Dundee United in the 2013 Scottish Cup semi-final

Anthony Stokes celebrates scoring the injury-time winner against Dundee United in the 2013 Scottish Cup semi-final

Former Ireland international Anthony Stokes says he still has the hunger to play at a high level and wants to return to play in Britain after lining out in three different countries in two years.

Stokes (31) is currently back in his native Dublin after what was due to be a six-month stint in Iran was cut short due to coronavirus.

He's unsure of his next move and is awaiting a payoff from a previous club in Iran, Tractor Sazi, after he took a case to FIFA over unpaid wages.

But after spells in Iran (two), Turkey and Greece since he was released by Hibs in January 2018, the former Celtic and Sunderland man is keen to stay close to home.

"The last few years I have done the whole abroad thing, I have had enough of it, it's hard, hard work," Stokes said in an interview with former Hibs team-mate Marvin Bartley, broadcast on Instagram.

"I have the hunger more so now.

"It was hard for me [abroad] because I was speaking in broken English, using interpreters, I found the last couple of years difficult.

"I will definitely be going back to Scotland or the UK, where I end up I don't know, I will just wait and see when this payout comes in.

"I'd love to have another stint at Hibs but that's unlikely. I'd like to play in Scotland at some stage. I am not even 32 yet, I am only 31."

In a wide-ranging interview, Stokes spoke about leaving Dublin to join Arsenal, having turned down Manchester United, at the age of 14; his time under Roy Keane at Sunderland which included Premier League football at 19 and a dressing-down from Keane; his six-year stint at Celtic which included "the best time of my career" and a subsequent falling-out with Bhoys manager Ronny Deila.

He admits his career started to unravel, largely due to personal reasons, when he departed Hibs immediately after their Scottish Cup final win to join Blackburn in 2016. Stokes then left Ewood Park just one year into a three-season deal.

"It didn't really go that well for me," he says of Blackburn. "I didn't settle down there, I wasn't happy, for loads of reasons, I just wanted away.

"I don't know what it was, loads of reasons maybe outside football, I had a lot going on, court cases and all of that and it was a difficult time,

"I had a lot going on in the background and that carried on to when I went to Greece."

Having returned to Hibs from Blackburn in August 2017 on a two-year contract, Stokes was again on his way after just six months, heading to Athens to play for Apollon Smyrni, a spell which ended after just four games.

"I thought I'd get a bit of sun on my back, see it out for three or four months, but everything that was going on, the court case, it was just madness, I couldn't concentrate on my football," he recalled.

"Greece was a shambles, I'd had a rough time in the background and it was a million things coming together at the one time.

"I didn't get paid and I ended up leaving. I didn't even try to sue them."

His next move was to Iran, a Tractor Sazi side managed by ex-Wales boss John Toshack, but problems arose again, Stokes taking proceedings against the club over unpaid wages.

"The money I got offered to go out there, tax-free, that's the only reason I was going there," he says.

"I only did a year but the standard of football was very good and we had 100,000 people at our games most weeks. I thought there'd be a farmer and two cows at the games but the fan base was incredible.

"Tractor didn't pay me my last payment. I sued them and won the case, I am waiting to get that processed but they have paid the price over the way they went about it."

Stokes left that club after a year, signing for Turkish outfit Adana Demirspor following a dispute over his wages, and lasted four months in Turkey before a move back to Iran, to Persepolis, in January. But after a handful of games he asked to leave due to the worsening Covid-19 situation and is back home in Ireland.

He also recalled time under Keane, including the day he was left behind after he was late to meet the team bus.

"That time I missed the bus, there was a car crash on the way, I was a minute late. I could see the bus doors close but Roy told the coach driver to drive on. I thought he'd cave and let me on. I phoned Liam Miller to ask Roy to pull in and let me on as I was driving behind the bus. I followed it for 30 miles, but Roy just said 'f*** off, tell him to go home'. And it was downhill after that.

"But Keane was good, it was his way or no way. You knew where you stood with him, if he had an issue he'd tell you."