BY ALAN TEMPLE – CCP_Sport
ANTHONY STOKES believes returning to Hibernian can revitalise his career after joining the Easter Road outfit for a third spell.
The 29-year-old, who was a free agent after leaving Blackburn Rovers last month, penned a two-year contract on Wednesday evening after passing a medical at the club’s East Lothian training base.
The capture is a major coup for Hibs, given the Ireland international could have pursued more lucrative options in India, China and England – and he is expected to be in the squad for Saturday’s Premiership opener against Partick Thistle.
Stokes said: “I am delighted to be coming back to Hibernian. The club has a big place in my heart and it’s where I’ve played some of my best football.
“It’s an environment that can get the best out of me and I am looking forward to getting back amongst the squad and scoring goals again.”
In his first spell with the club between 2009 and 2010, Stokes scored 24 goals to earn a move to Celtic.
He re-signed on loan for the second half of the 2015/16 campaign and proceeded to cement legendary status by helping Hibs smash their 114-year Scottish Cup hoodoo – bagging a double in the breathless 3-2 win over Rangers in the Hampden showpiece.
He told Hibs’ official website: “The scenes of celebration following the cup win will live long in my memory, and the only disappointment from my last spell was that we didn’t get promotion. The boys did brilliantly last season and now I’ll be looking to help us push on back in the Premiership.”
The presence of his former Celtic boss Neil Lennon was also pivotal, with Stokes having thrived under the Northern Irishman at Parkhead.
He scored 77 goals in six years with the Glasgow giants, and Lennon is keen to unlock that quality and consistency this season.
Lennon added: “Anthony’s a quality player that we all know well, and will be a massive addition to our strike force.
“I’ve been really pleased with the work we’ve done over the summer – the squad is in good shape and we’ve made several strong additions.
“We now have competition in every area of the park and are ready for the start of the league campaign on Saturday.”
Arsenal youth product Stokes, who made just 12 appearances for Blackburn last term, has also turned out for Sunderland, Falkirk, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace, while he boasts nine full caps for Ireland.
Stokes is Hibs’ eight arrival of the summer, joining Efe Ambrose, Ofir Marciano, Steven Whittaker, Deivydas Matulevicius, Vykintas Slivka, Danny Swanson and Simon Murray and the club last night confirmed they are “not expecting to do any further business during this transfer window.”