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Stokes: I can fire Bhoys

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Celtic's Anthony Stokes. Picture credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Celtic's Anthony Stokes. Picture credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Celtic's Anthony Stokes. Picture credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

CELTIC have dismissed reports that they have lined up a £2.5million bid for Sunderland's Irish star James McClean.

But at least one Republic of Ireland international can star for the Bhoys this season as Anthony Stokes staked a claim for a place in the starting XI by scoring a classy free-kick in a pre-season game against Borrussia Monchengladbach, a warm-up game for Celtic's Champions League battle with Elfsborg at home on Wednesday.

McClean had been linked with a move away from Sunderland this summer, but the former Derry City man had featured in pre-season, coming off the bench in Hong Kong to play against Manchester City in a defeat last week.

"I'm feeling very fit at the minute, you only get out what you put in and the squad have given their all," McClean said of the club's pre-season programme.

With funds available from the sale Gary Hooper to Norwich City, Celtic have been linked with a number of players and McClean was touted as a possible signing, but a Parkhead spokesman has stated firmly McClean is not on the club's radar.

"We have our sights on a few players and we'll see what happens," said a Celtic spokesman.

Opportunity

Meanwhile, Stokes hopes he will get the opportunity to fill Hooper's boots. The Dubliner played sporadically for Celtic last season due to injury but has looked impressive in pre-season and he wants to deliver more goals.

"I was happy enough with my goal. As a striker, it's always nice to be scoring goals, so I was delighted to be back on the scoresheet," he said.

"I always try and score as many as possible but we are all going to have to dig in and over the last three or four years we have done that. We have plenty of players who can score goals," added Stokes.

"We've lost a great player (in Gary Hooper) and he was great lad around the club as well but at a club like this it happens and we have to move and other people have to take the burden."

Stokes is one of three Irishmen on Champions League duty in the coming week (Liam Lawrence is in action for Greek side PAOK against Metalist Kharkiv and Cillian Sheridan should make his competitive debut for Cypriot outfit APOEL against Maribor from Slovenia), and is confident of advancing past Elfsborg.

"It's going to be a tough game, but we fancy our chances," added Stokes.

Void

And Celtic coach Garry Parker has challenged Stokes to prove he is the man to fill the void left by Hooper.

Parker said: "It's up to him. He's there at the moment. Whether we bring someone in or not, I don't know. We've got a few options so we will see what happens."

Boss Neil Lennon was in Sweden compiling a dossier on Elfsborg, leaving Parker to take the team training at Celtic Park.

Parker said: "It was a good workout. They are a good side and they kept the ball very well.

"We had a young side out there and some players back from injury, which was good.

"I'm pleased with 2-1 because they are a very good side.

"The most important thing is the players that were injured came through it, nobody got injured and we are ready for Wednesday night."

Charlie Mulgrew, Adam Matthews and Joe Ledley – who have been struggling with injury – were all handed game-time in the second half.

Advised

Parker added: "I was advised by the physio that Charlie was okay to come on at the start of the second half and, for the other two, just 30 minutes.

"They have come through it okay. It might be too soon for Wednesday. They could be in the squad but I don't know."


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