Sunday 25 February 2018

Stokes maintains Euro vision

Ewing Grahame

ANTHONY STOKES has not featured for the Republic of Ireland since pulling out of the friendly matches at the end of last season, citing fatigue as the reason.

But despite the fact that he has heard nothing since from the unforgiving Giovanni Trappatoni, Stokes hasn't given up hope of winning a recall for Euro 2012.

"I don't see why the door should be shut on me, to be perfectly honest," said the Celtic striker yesterday. "If I keep scoring goals and keep playing well and try to improve my game, I should have some sort of chance.

"But the lads who are there at the moment have been outstanding and they've qualified. It's going to be tough for me, but I'm going to concentrate on my club form and hopefully the call will come."

Stokes continues that process with a trip to Highland tomorrow.

Six months ago, Neil Lennon's team made the journey to Inverness as odds-on favourites to become champions. It was a match rearranged after several cancellations earlier in the season and, by the time it was played, Terry Butcher's team had failed to claim a top-six finish.

Yet, even though they had nothing to play for and included several players who had been told they were being released, Inverness outplayed the visitors and beat them 3-2. That defeat cost Celtic the title.

Stokes, substituted after only 58 minutes on the last visit, recalled: "It was very disappointing there last season, but we have to go into it with a different mind-frame this time.

"But it's not easy winning matches in this league. The gaffer says that to us every week.

"Inverness are a physical, strong team who make it tough for you. That's what happened last season."

Rangers are currently 12 points ahead of their arch-rivals and, even allowing for their game in hand, Stokes is painfully aware that they can't afford to stumble again before the next Old Firm meeting at Parkhead on December 28.

"Obviously, we're trying to take it game by game, but we know we haven't too many slip-ups left in us between now and the end of the season even though Rangers haven't gone through their rough patch yet," he added.

And Lennon yesterday called for the club's supporters to cease their songs and chants which celebrate the IRA.

When Stokes was asked whether he would echo those sentiments, the press conference was terminated by the club's press officer, just as a Gary Hooper interview had been on Tuesday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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