BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
JOHN McGINN is adamant Anthony Stokes has the big-game mentality and quality to spearhead Hibs’ return to the top-flight as he urged the mercurial Irishman to sign on for a third stint at Easter Road.
The capital club have tabled an offer to the 28-year-old, who is now officially a free agent after securing his release from Blackburn Rovers last week.
Stokes has more lucrative options, however head coach Neil Lennon – his former boss at Celtic – has publicly urged him to come back to Leith, stating “he knows we can get the best out of him.”
McGinn played alongside Stokes as they helped Hibs smash their 114-year wait for the Scottish Cup in 2016, with the striker ensuring legendary status by bagging a brace in the breathless 3-2 win over Rangers at Hampden.
He also notched 23 goals for the club in the 2009/10 campaign.
The Scotland internationalist said: “He fitted in well last time and he is a top player. Everybody saw in the Scottish cup final against Rangers and it would be great to get him back.
“He is a quality player that steps up in big games. Not everybody can handle the pressure of being at a club like Hibs.
“There is pressure to get results and we are a team that are supposed to be at the top end of Scottish football – we need players like Stokesy if we are to try and get us winning all the time and give is that bit of quality that can make the difference in matches.
“Everybody knows that Stokesy thrives under certain managers and others don’t take to him, so I am sure the gaffer here would know how to get the best out of him.
“He’s also a big hero round these parts, which always helps – they will need to start building an extra bit to the stadium if he signs because the season tickets are nearly running out!”
Stokes’ potential arrival would add to the summer captures of Danny Swanson, Simon Murray, Steven Whittaker, Efe Ambrose and Ofir Marciano, while Lithuanian striker Deivydas Matulevicius has received international clearance and his compatriot Vykintas Slivka signed a three-year deal to join the club from Juventus yesterday.
It is a summer of business which has filled McGinn with optimism about the upcoming campaign.
He added: “It is all starting to come good and we have strength in depth in most areas. With a club like Hibs you expect competition for places. We want guys to know that there is a quality player behind them and that they need to constantly look over their shoulder and that keeps you on your toes.
“We have a few Europeans kicking about the changing room now so I will need to teach them the Weegie lingo!
“The Lithuanian boys have came in and look good. Slivka has been christened Vicky – which I am not too sure about – and Deivydas has also looked the part.”
There is similar cause for optimism regarding Hibs’ academy products, with young centre-back Ryan Porteous arguably stealing the show in pre-season.
The 18-year-old scored a double and was named man of the match against the Lichties on Tuesday and also cruised through their win against Montrose, and McGinn believes the sky is the limit for the youngster.
He added: “I will never forget the first day he came into training and put big Grant Holt on his backside!
“He is as hard as nails, he is quick and good on the ball and also has an eye for goal. He is a Rolls Royce of a defender.
“He has the bit between his teeth now and the rest of the young players only need to look at him for inspiration and the way he approaches training.”