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Celtic’s Anthony Stokes presses for Ireland call-up after manager’s praise

CELTIC striker Anthony Stokes was delighted to hear manager Neil Lennon hail improvements in his all-round game but he knows he will continue to be judged on his goals.

Lennon has been pushing for Stokes to earn a Republic of Ireland recall after being thrilled by his work off the ball in recent months.

The extra teamwork has not affected his goalscoring contribution - Stokes is only two short of the 20-goal tally he finished on last season.

Speaking of Lennon's praise, Stokes told the Huddle Online: "It's always good to hear. That's one thing this year that I have tried to work on a bit more - my hold-up play and my touch play.

"But at the end I'm going to be judged on goals, but I know I have a lot more to work on in my game."

Stokes is reasonably satisfied with his season's work so far.

"I have started quite a few games again this year and am close enough to where I was last year but I want to improve on that," he said.

"Every year you want to improve. "As a striker you are judged on goals so I'm hoping to score more by the end of the season."

The Dubliner's goals have helped Celtic maintain a run of victories which would have been unthinkable during their inconsistent spell in the autumn.

Celtic have won 17 consecutive Clydesdale Bank Premier League games - and 20 in domestic football - over a four-month period.

They are looking to maintain that form and extend their 20-point lead in the SPL when they face Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Saturday.

Stokes said: "It's always tough there. Every game is going to be tough between now and the end of the season.

"But we're on a good run of winning games and we want to maintain that.

"You want to try to win every game obviously but when you're on a winning run like this it gives you that extra incentive.

"Obviously the league is still there and we don't want to get complacent with that either.

"It's just about doing what we have been doing in the last few months."

Stokes has spent this week training at Lennoxtown with a shadow squad as most of his first-team colleagues have been away on international duty.

Stokes has been overlooked by Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni since pulling out of the Carling Nations Cup squad at the end of last season.

There looks to be no way back before Euro 2012 for Stokes, but the former Arsenal trainee hopes his goalscoring exploits for Celtic will spark an international comeback at some stage.

"I always love to play for my country and I hope one day in the near future I might do that again," he said.

"But I'm happy with my club form at the minute.

"I just want to keep playing as well as I possibly can and hopefully that call will come."