Saturday 18 November 2017

Dressing-room culture at Sunderland was a 'nightmare' – Stokes

Celtic's Ireland striker reveals players would miss sessions 'to have braids put in their hair', writes Roddy Forsyth

Roddy Forsyth

Anthony Stokes has claimed that the dressing-room at Sunderland – where he made 36 appearances in two years after moving from Hibernian for £2m in 2007 – was "a nightmare".

The Ireland striker, who has returned to the international set-up following Giovanni Trapattoni's departure, was signed by Roy Keane for the Black Cats.

However, he endured a fractious relationship with the manager, including an incident in which the team bus departed without him and some team-mates when they arrived late.

Stokes, who this week agreed a three-year extension to his contract at Celtic, added that, by contrast, it was the harmony of the Hoops squad that had been decisive in his signing the new deal.

Asked if it would have been a wrench for him to leave Celtic, Stokes (right) replied: "It would have. I love the city, I love the club, I am playing here and it is a great squad here.

"It is a young squad but it is the best dressing-room I have been in. I am not just saying that. I would have found it hard to leave. I have been at other clubs and the dressing-room has been a nightmare, but the boys here are all very level-headed and are young lads trying to improve. It makes for a great atmosphere.

"When I was at Sunderland you had boys coming in who were on £100k a week. There were incidents where boys wouldn't do gym sessions or wouldn't do swimming sessions because they were getting braids put in their hair.

"Here, there is no one on massive, ridiculous money. There isn't that marquee player who is on 10 times what everyone else gets. It is a young squad, we have a good attitude and we want to improve.

"It can create tension – if someone is coming in on 10 times more than another player then people will soon start raising eyebrows – but thankfully everyone here is quite level-headed and that helps us on the pitch because we have that togetherness."

When it was suggested to Neil Lennon that a player might one day decline a training routine because of his hair requirements, the Celtic manager said: "He wouldn't play for me again. Either that or I would get his braids cut off. I'm sure whoever it is Anthony is talking about was getting paid handsomely by the club.

"For me that's breaking your contract, or not honouring it. There would have to be some retribution for that, some punishment.

"Players need to make sure they're out on the training ground doing what they're paid for.

"I don't begrudge any player getting good money, but I think some players are way overpaid for what they do on the pitch. There has to be a justification." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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