BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HIBS head coach Neil Lennon is hopeful Anthony Stokes will choose football over money after revealing he has held further talks with the in-demand striker this week.
Suggestions online that the capital club have already struck a deal with the Irishman are well wide of the mark, however a contract offer has been tabled and Lennon spoke to the player on Wednesday for an update on the situation.
Stokes is a free agent after leaving Blackburn Rovers last week and is the subject of potentially lucrative interest from abroad, including the mega-rich Chinese Superleague.
However, Lennon has been buoyed by the latest round of talks.
“We spoke to Anthony again on Wednesday and, although you are never too confident, we have made Anthony a great offer. It is down to Anthony and his representatives.
“The bottom line for Anthony is does he accept more lucrative offers elsewhere. I don’t know if there is anything in writing yet but there is talk of it, and he has to do what is best for him and his family. But, in terms of where we are, we have done the best that we possibly could to make the deal happen.
“In terms of football, he knows this would be the place for him.
“He is not holding us over a barrel and he is not being greedy. The talks were very sensible and there looks like there is a maturity there. We are not a million miles away and we need to get some sort of closure on it one way or the other.
“I think he has plenty of football left in him and points to prove to himself more than anybody else.”
During a loan spell at the club from Celtic, Stokes 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 Hibees in the 2009/10 campaign.
Lennon added: “Anthony has been a success here before and we are back in the Premiership where he made his name. He will be a main player here and he likes that responsibility.”