Thursday 18 January 2018

Anthony Stokes: 'I'm shocked more Dundee United players didn't get bans'


Celtic striker Anthony Stokes was surprised that more Dundee United players were not cited by the Scottish Football Association following Sunday's controversial cup tie.

United have announced that striker Nadir Ciftci will fight a two-match ban for allegedly kicking Celtic skipper Scott Brown in the head but Stokes also expected Aidan Connolly and Calum Butcher to be offered bans.

Stokes is adamant that Connolly dived to win the penalty awarded against him in the 1-1 William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final draw at Tannadice, while Butcher escaped punishment for his clash with Virgil van Dijk, despite Paul Paton being sent off in an apparent case of mistaken identity.

When asked if he was surprised Connolly did not receive a simulation charge, Stokes said: "I was a bit because I know for a fact I have not touched him. I was going to make a tackle and, from one of the camera angles you can see, I have gone to put my foot in but I have pulled it away. He was already on the way down. "It's a strange one for me because there was no contact. I remember a similar incident with myself against Kilmarnock, but the boy has caught me. I might have gone down easily, but I think if you make contact in the box then you run the risk. I didn't make contact. He has tried to read the tackle and gone down too early."

Celtic defender Van Dijk will miss Sunday's QTS Scottish League Cup final against United unless he wins an appeal against his red card on Thursday, but the SFA does not have the power within its rules to transfer Paton's red card to Butcher.

"It seems like a strange one to me. The officials have obviously given the red card to Paton," Stokes added. "Fair enough he is nowhere involved in the situation but they have obviously mis-identified someone so there has to be some breach of the rules somewhere from Dundee United. For me it's illogical.

"I think they should clarify what the situation was. They have obviously seen something from one of the Dundee United players that deserves a red card, so surely that should be punished?


"I saw the incident where he has kicked Browny in the head and for me he would be better off just taking his punishment because it seems quite clear.

"But as for the rest of it, I don't really know. At the time I genuinely thought two yellow cards and have a word, and just let the game go on, because it was pretty petty. The kick-out was the one incident that stood out and something should have been done about that, but that's in hindsight after seeing it after the game."

Stokes dismissed suggestions that any bad feeling could spill over into the Hampden final.

"We are just fully focused on ourselves and how we perform," the Republic of Ireland international said. "It's a cup final so there's going to be an edge in that aspect but we will be worried about our performance and not getting involved in stupid tit-for-tats."

Stokes has started the last two games after a spell out of the starting line-up which followed disciplinary action against him after he returned late from a trip to Dublin.

He has found extra competition for his place in the shape of Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong but the former Dundee United pair are ineligible for Sunday's final. And Stokes is determined to show manager Ronny Deila he is worthy of a place in the team.

"I speak to the gaffer on a regular basis. There have been different aspects of my game that he wants me to improve - defensively, my fitness, even the shape I'm in and trying to drop more weight. I have been trying to do all that.

"Every day in training I have been pushing myself more than ever because I know the competition is there.

"I feel quite comfortable but I need to do my talking on the pitch. My performances probably haven't been as high as standard as I expect but I will keep working hard. I have been at the club for five years, I have seen plenty of players come and go. There has always been competition. Every time it has happened I have risen to it. I am just trying to do the same thing again and work hard.

"I hit the post on Sunday and had a good chance in the previous game but I won't let my head go down. "If I get another chance I will be confident I will put it away," he added.


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