Anthony Stokes: Forget lack of goals, I'm an improved player
Celtic striker Anthony Stokes feels he has improved as a player this season - even if his goals tally does not indicate it.
The Republic of Ireland striker was expected to be Celtic's main goalscorer following the departure of Gary Hooper, but his 15-goal return so far is 12 behind playmaker Kris Commons.
Stokes went through a long barren run in the middle part of the campaign when he struck just twice in 25 games, both against Motherwell, who the Scottish Premiership champions play at Fir Park on Saturday.
He has since increased his strike-rate, netting eight goals in his last 10 games, and although the total is still short of his normal return, he only netted seven times last term in an injury-hit campaign.
The 25-year-old had hit the 20-goal mark in each of the previous three seasons, the first of which was with Hibernian, but he feels he has become a far more rounded player than those days following a request from manager Neil Lennon to improve his contribution outside the box.
And, despite looking to keep that goalscoring rate up, he feels his development into a team player has compensated.
"I was on fire at the start of the season, and then I went through a spell when I just couldn't buy a goal," said Stokes, who was launching the club's Magners goal of the season vote.
"But the performances were there, I felt like I was playing well and bringing a lot to the team, but I just haven't scored as many goals as I would have liked.
"In the last season or two the gaffer has asked me to become more of a team player and I think I have shown that this season.
"I actually kind of prefer it in a way, you get to see a bit more of the ball and get to make things happen.
"I like to drift out to the left and come in on my right foot, play a one-two here and there, but I have done that since I was a kid."
The former Sunderland striker said: "I feel like I bring more to the team than just goals. If you look at my performances at Hibs, I scored a lot of goals but I wouldn't say I did a lot of work outside the box. I just tried to stay in there and score goals.
"This season I have tried to mix it up. As a striker I still judge myself on goals and that's what counts, but I have tried to improve other aspects of my game.
"I feel I have brought more to the team but at the end of the season a lot of people won't remember that, they will just look at your stats. Sometimes stats can be a bit deceiving."
Stokes feels his more rounded game can also help his international prospects. The Dubliner has earned a recall to the Republic of Ireland squad under Martin O'Neill after falling out of favour with Giovanni Trapattoni.
Stokes, whose country host Turkey in a friendly on May 25, said: "I think the more variety of roles you can play, the better chance you will have of playing.
"It's been great to get back involved in the Irish set-up. I missed being involved and I got a couple of caps this year and started a good few games.
"So it's been brilliant for me and something I am really enjoying and looking forward to when the squads are coming up, because I know now I have a good chance, if my club form is going well, that I might get called up.
"I look at the games I played in, even Germany away, I missed a couple of chances. But as a striker you can't dwell on missed chances, you just have to perform as well as you possibly can."