Former Celtic boss Tony Mowbray admits he wants to keep Hibs target Anthony Stokes at Blackburn Rovers

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Hibs head coach Neil Lennon’s bid to sign Anthony Stokes has been dealt a blow after Blackburn Rovers manager Tony Mowbray admitted that he plans to keep all his contracted players.

Stokes has been linked with a third stint at Easter Road after scoring just four goals in 14 appearances for a Rovers side that were relegated from the English Championship.

The 28-year-old wrote himself into Hibs folklore when he netted a double in last May’s historic 3-2 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers and would be welcomed back by the club’s supporters with open arms.

But Stokes’ deal at Ewood Park runs until summer 2019 and former Celtic manager Mowbray is adamant that he wants to retain members of his existing squad as he targets an immediate return to the second tier.

Mowbray said: “I would like to keep all of the contracted players if possible to give us the best opportunity to move forward.

“However, if an offer comes in for one that we feel that we can use to improve the team then we will look at that as well.

“But at this moment, the discussions have been around retaining the current contracted players and then we have to add to the squad with quality.

“I have confidence that we can get a team that will be very strong in League One.

“We know it is going to be difficult, of course, but the only aspiration is to bounce straight back to the Championship.

“We have to recruit well in the summer and be as strong as we possibly can.”

Hibs head coach Lennon also wants to convert defender Efe Ambrose and goalkeeper Ofir Marciano’s loan deals into permanent contracts and has been linked with Kris Commons, Kelvin Wilson, Steven Whittaker, Shaun Maloney and Simon Murray.

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