BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Lewis Stevenson reckons Celtic supporters are gutted that Anthony Stokes has been allowed to rejoin Hibs on loan – and he is adamant the Irishman is ready to prove a point to the Hoops.
The 27-year-old has been frozen out by the Scottish champions this season, making just two appearances, against Stjarnan and Dundee United back in August.
He also clashed with Celtic boss Ronny Deila after a Twitter outburst following the Norwegian’s decision to leave him out of the match-day squad to face Inverness in November.
Nevertheless, Stokes’ scoring record of 76 goals in five-and-a-half years for the Parkhead club stands up to scrutiny and Stevenson has no doubt he will thrive in the Championship.
Stevenson said: “I have spoken to a few Celtic fans and they think he is good enough to play for them.
“He is going to want to prove that he is good enough and still the player he was when he was banging them in for Celtic.
“To get him is a great signing and shows the ambition of the club. I have seen some stats since he has been in Scotland and he is as good as any striker.
“To have him at Hibs is amazing. Hopefully he can give us a wee boost until the end of the season.
“He probably had his pick of any club in Scotland that he could have gone to as well as some in England. That he has come here shows the club is going in the right direction.
“I am sure if he has done it in the top league he can do it in this league as well.”
Stevenson is adamant Stokes can fire his way to the Euros next summer by firing Hibs to the Championship title.
The former Sunderland and Falkirk forward scored 24 goals in his first spell with the club in 2009/10, prompting Celtic to shell out £2 million to take him to Glasgow.
A similarly prolific stint – while helping Hibs get the better of Rangers and Falkirk in the race for promotion – could catch the eye of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill, according to Stevenson.
Stevenson, speaking as he promoted an upcoming documentary about the fabled Famous Five, continued: ”Stokesy is certainly good enough to play at that level.
“He is a quality player and when he was playing at Celtic and they were playing well he was one of their best players. If he can recapture that form then he will have a chance of making the Irish squad for the Euros.
“Hopefully because he is playing in this league or the fact that he is at Hibs he doesn’t get overlooked.
“We would love to have a Hibs player playing in the Euros in the summer. I’m sure if he does the business here then he will be in the Republic of Ireland manager’s plans.
“Martin O’Neill knows him and he is aware of his quality and if they see him getting regular game time and putting in good performances then he will have every chance.”
Stevenson also believes Stokes’ influence will be invaluable to Hibs hot-shot Jason Cummings.
The 20-year-old, who is the top scorer at Easter Road with 17 goals, has been linked with a host of clubs south of the border including Bournemouth, Brighton, Fulham, Cardiff City, Rotherham and Leeds United.
However, Stevenson reckons he would be better served remaining in Leith and learning from the experienced Stokes.
He continued: “Jason will learn a lot from Stokesy coming in. He is a good guy. There is a lot of off-field stuff that people see as well, but in the changing room he is really good.
“He will be a boost for us in the changing room as well as on the field. I am sure he will fit in well with the boys.”
‘The Famous Five’, produced by purpleTV, will be broadcast on Sunday 24th January at 9pm on BBC ALBA