Saturday 22 October 2016

New row is a tweet too far

Ireland outlook looks grim for Stokes after Deila blasts him over Twitter comments

Anthony Stokes hasn’t done his club or international career any favours after with his use of social media
Anthony Stokes hasn’t done his club or international career any favours after with his use of social media

Sorry, it seems, is not the hardest word for Anthony Stokes.

The Dubliner has apologised to supporters at Celtic for his comments on social media yesterday when Stokes' frustration at being a peripheral figure at the Scottish champions made itself known through that popular (and dangerous) medium for professional footballers: Twitter.

But as he faces into a critical phase of his career Stokes - now 27 and no longer a callow youth - he may have twittered his way into more trouble than he needs, or can deal with. And with the door to international football closed off for now (he hasn't played for Ireland in over a year and hasn't even a sniff of that squad for Euro 2016), the former Arsenal man has also done himself no favours at club level.

The facts are thus: Stokes is currently fit physically, but not fit for use in the eyes of Celtic manager Ronny Deila, as Celtic have played 19 games in all competitions since last August without calling on Stokes.

Yesterday, Stokes travelled to Inverness for an SPL game but Deila had no place for the Ireland international on the bench, let alone the starting XI. Being forced to make that three-hour trek north to the Highlands to merely sit in the stands did not go down well in the Stokes camp and the Lucan lad did turned on his phone and, fatally, clicked the Twitter icon.

"Buzzing to be brought all the way up to inverness with the team to sit in the stands today, lovely weather for it too," he tweeted.

That prompted a instant reaction, mainly negative, from Celtic fans who lacked empathy for the 27-year-old's plight.


Instead of taking the sensible option (turning off the phone), Stokes responded online to unsympathetic supporters who felt that his chunky wage packet was enough of a comfort against the Inverness chill.

"Who gives a f*** about wages when your (sic) not playing games! It's all about playing and contributing not picking up a wage," Stokes responded.

Within hours, having had time to think (and, presumably, an earful from the club's PR department and a stern reminder of their social media policy for players), Stokes was more humble. "Sorry for earlier Tweet. Hope fans can appreciate my frustration, heat of the moment," he said on Twitter, the organ which got him into trouble in the first place.

The next missive in the saga came from his manager, and Celtic boss Deila - having overseen a 3-1 win - who bared his teeth and didn't spare Stokes, agreeing with the suggestion that Stokes' comments were "disrespectful for the boys".

Deila said: "We travel every week with 20 players and the manager puts out 11 and seven on the bench and there are always two left out. If that is harder for him than somebody else, then for me he is not a team player.

"What is important with Stokesy is that he has to show the work first before he speaks and if you do that, then you always have a future. But so far he has been more [about] talking than performances."

On the pitch, Deila was a satisfied man. Midfielder Callum McGregor - who started midfielder against Ajax only due to injuries and suspensions and scored in the 2-1 defeat - retained his place and was again on target with a fine drive from distance with only seven minutes gone but that was cancelled out by Caley striker Miles Storey in the 39th minute. Leigh Griffiths drove in his 19th of the season from a Kieran Tierney cross just before the hour mark and with five minutes remaining substitute Carlton Cole, making his debut, tangled with Danny Devine with the ball ending up in the net.

Stokes is still only 27 and has a lot to offer, for club and country. One of a handful of players to have featured for the last four Ireland managers (Steve Staunton, Giovanni Trapattoni, caretaker Noel King and Martin O'Neill) he should be using this season to make a case for a seat on the plane to France next year.

Old-schoolers like Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane detest modern media phrases like "Twitter-storm".

But they also have very little sympathy for the forward and Stokes, capped just nine times in eight years, has now tweeted his way even further down the pecking order.

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