Alan Stubbs is certain the return of Anthony Stokes to Easter Road would be a major boost to Hibs’ chances of winning the Championship.
The Capital outfit have agreed a deal with Celtic to take the Republic of Ireland striker on loan until the end of the season and, although details have yet to be finalised with Stokes, Stubbs is hopeful he’ll sign on with the club where he scored 24 goals in just 46 appearances. The 27-year-old has recently seen his career stall in Glasgow having played just twice for Celtic this season, resulting in a host of clubs chasing his signature on a temporary basis including Premiership sides Dundee United and Inverness Caley.
But Hibs have emerged as favourites and, should a deal be concluded in time, head coach Stubbs admitted he’d have no problems pitching him straight into action in tomorrow’s crunch Championship clash with Falkirk.
While Stokes is desperately seeking regular football, Stubbs has no doubts about what he can bring to a Hibs side not only chasing the league title but also with a League Cup semi-final against St Johnstone and a mouthwatering Scottish Cup tie with arch-rivals Hearts on the horizon.
He said: “It’s more about what Anthony can offer us. He brings goals and knows what he’s coming into. I’m sure he has spoken to a few of the lads about it here. We’ll give him a platform and a stage to perform on and what he does on that stage is entirely up to Anthony.
“There’s a long way to go (in the title race). He definitely increases our odds of trying to do it. I think if you’re looking at the big picture and you ask have we got a chance of doing it? The answer is, yes.
“Do we have a better chance with Anthony Stokes? I think the answer is pretty obvious.
“Things are progressing. It’s common knowledge we’ve shown an interest and we’re hopeful something can maybe be done. We’ve agreed with Celtic what we need to agree and now hopefully we can sort out one or two little things with Anthony and his agent and hopefully that will see us conclude the deal.”
Given Celtic have made it clear Rangers’ absence from the top flight has hugely impinged on their finances – some estimates putting the shortfall at £10 million – it may seem strange that they’d be prepared to allow Stokes to join a club which, potentially, could prevent their Old Firm rivals rejoining them in the Premiership, at least on an automatic basis.
That was clearly a testing question for Stubbs who, after lengthy deliberation, answered: “Obviously for Anthony, for whatever reason, it hasn’t worked out the way everyone would have liked it to and this is an opportunity for him. Anthony has a say in this as well. Celtic are the parent club and they are to a certain degree in control of things but Anthony has a say in it as well. He has been allowed to speak to Dundee Utd and Inverness but, looking at John Hughes’ comments, it probably won’t happen at Inverness. Mixu (Paatelainen) is probably hopeful he can still do something. We’re hopeful Anthony will come here.”
Stubbs admitted the lure of big matches such as the League and Scottish Cup clashes at the end of the month could help tempt Stokes to move back to Edinburgh but urged a degree of caution, saying: “I’m not comfortable speaking too much about Anthony because we haven’t done the deal yet.
“It could be done. It might not be done, that’s where we are. But we have a couple of decent games for him to look forward to if we do get it across the line.”
Having said that, Stubbs admitted that things could move quickly and, if they do so favourably, he wouldn’t have any worries about him facing Falkirk – where he scored 14 goals in just 16 matches as a teenager.
He said: “We could get it done for then if everyone agrees to everything in the deal.
“But I’m sure you can imagine with him being a big player it is not as straightforward sometimes.
“We’ve done probably the bulk of it as in agreeing with Celtic and little things within that agreement.
“We haven’t spoken to Anthony or his advisor yet. We’re hoping that goes very smoothly.”