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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Stokes keen on Celts stay

ANTHONY STOKES is happy to avoid the transfer spotlight. Five years ago, as an Arsenal teenager, he was scoring goals like they were going out of business on loan at Falkirk to attract the interest of Celtic and others.

A 'dream move' seemed on the cards for Stokes as he arrived at Celtic Park for talks about joining Gordon Strachan's league leaders with the carrot of a Champions League clash with AC Milan just around the corner.

Roy Keane's late intervention took Stokes to Sunderland, but 18 months ago he finally signed up at Celtic and has his mind on winning the SPL title rather than rejoining the transfer merry-go-round.

"I think everybody knows I am happy here," the striker confirmed. "I am enjoying my football, I love playing for the club so I can't see myself going anywhere in the foreseeable future.

"I still have another year or so left on my contract so we'll see what happens. I would love to sign a new contract but the main focus this season is the league and everyone at the club is focusing on that."

Yesterday, Celtic boss Neil Lennon signed former PSV midfielder Rabui Ibrahim subject to receiving a work permit, but the focus of Lennon's transfer activity is in attack.

While the Celtic boss looks to bring in another striker, Southampton are posing a serious threat to his preferred strike pairing of Stokes and Gary Hooper.

That combination has netted 31 times so far this season but the Championship side have so far tabled two bids to re-unite Hooper with Nigel Adkins, who sold the Englishman to Celtic from Scunthorpe 18 months ago.

A reported third bid for the 23-year-old is said to be in the region of £6million, which could test Celtic's resolve again before the transfer window closes.

Stokes and Hooper have formed a tele- pathic understanding on the pitch and Stokes is hopeful that they can continue to work in tandem once the transfer window shuts.

He added: "As far as I am aware, Hoops is happy here and enjoying his football, but I don't know what he is thinking.

"It can be unsettling for a player.

"However, he doesn't look like a player who was unsettled. I get on well with him and he is a great lad to have around the place. I hope he stays.

"He is still a young player and he is only going to get better. It is all down to his personal ambition. From my point of view, if you stay at a club like Celtic you have the European games and the chance to become a fans' favourite.

"It is a big decision he has to make but up here you have the chance to win titles and as a footballer you want to win as much as possible."

Stokes admits it would be "massive" if Hooper stayed to help wrest the Scottish Premier League title back from Rangers.

The Dubliner said: "You look at how well he has done since he came here.

"He has been outstanding and I hope he stays.

"He scored at Scunthorpe, he has come here and scored goals for fun and I think he would score goals at any level.

"He's a top class player and I play reasonably well when we play together so fingers crossed that we can keep him.

"I can't talk about what the club are going to do but, from a personal point of view, I would like to think they will do everything they can to hold onto him and I'm sure they will."

Stokes is expecting a tough task to keep Rangers at bay when the Bhoys take on St Mirren this weekend.

The last time Celtic played St Mirren, they recorded the highest scoring victory of their season so far, but Anthony Stokes, speaking in this week's Celtic View, said he isn't expecting five goals again on Saturday.



Winner

"It's always a tough game against St Mirren, especially away from home," he insisted.

"Last year we had to wait until the 90th minute or so to get the winner. They are usually well-organised and we'll have to be on top form to get a result against them again.

"I've not scored against St Mirren so that would be another box to tick off if I was to get a goal, but that's not the important thing, we have to just make sure we get the three points."

And one player Stokes knows Celtic will have to be wary of is former-Hoops youngster and December Player of the Month, Paul McGowan.

"I wasn't here when he was at Celtic but I've seen him play and I know he is a good player," he said.

"He scored against Rangers too but hopefully he won't do the same against us."

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