Anthony Stokes has revealed Tynecastle is one of his favourite stadiums – because of the abuse he gets from Hearts fans.
The Republic of Ireland striker put himself in the frame to start Sunday’s Scottish Cup clash between the Capital sides by netting the only goal of the game against Morton on Tuesday, his second strike in as many matches since returning to Easter Road on loan from Celtic.
But, while admiting he is still “getting up to speed” having not played regular first-team football since August, the 27-year-old insisted he’s relishing the trip to Gorgie.
He said: “I’ve played in a couple of them before with Hibs and it’s a great atmosphere. Tynecastle is one of my favourite grounds, believe it or not, because I get plenty of abuse. But you just blank that out. It’s just a good atmosphere.
“It’s a good ground, the pitch is normally decent and the crowd are right on top of you. Hopefully the football does the talking. It’s going to be a massive game, but we are going there to win.
“I’ve scored a few there, but that’s all in the past. We’re going on the back of a great performance at Tynecastle in the semi-final. We are going into the game confident.”
Stokes insisted Championship promotion hopefuls Hibs have no fears about facing Hearts, having beaten their third Premiership side of the season, St Johnstone, to reach the final of the League Cup against yet another top-flight club, Ross County.
Dublin-born Stokes missed the victory over Saints with a back strain but believes the 75 minutes he played at Cappielow will help hone his fitness. He said: “It was one of those games, get three points and go home.
“We created plenty of chances but couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. I had a good chance after we scored, but couldn’t put it away. I need match fitness, I need match sharpness and hopefully that will have helped me.
“It’s been difficult getting back into the swing of things, but listen, I’m scoring goals and enjoying my football again. Tuesday night was a grind, but I’ll get there. If I keep scoring goals and we keep winning that’s the main thing.”
Well used to the pressure of being expected to win every week at Celtic, Stokes admitted the prospect of battling on three fronts with Hibs was a big attraction as he mulled over possible loan spells with Inverness Caley, Dundee United and a string of English clubs during the transfer window.
He said: “That was one of the reasons I came here. There’s plenty to fight for between now and the end of the season. There’s plenty of big games to come, especially at the weekend. It’s just a case of taking it game by game and see what happens. The boys put in a lot of effort against St Johnstone and going to Cappielow wasn’t easy.
“But it’s been great. The boys have great enthusiasm, even at training. I knew five or six of them even before I came through the door and the gaffer’s been brilliant, so I am enjoying it. I want to get up to somewhere near my best as soon as I possibly can. Playing games will help.”
Celtic’s League Cup semi-final defeat by the Staggies has paved the way for both Stokes and Liam Henderson, also on loan from the Glasgow club, to play their part in the final at Hampden next month, leaving Stokes with mixed emotions although happy to have the chance feature on the big day.
He said: “I’ve always been a Celtic fan, I wanted them to win. But it’s played into my hands now. The boys have done great to get us to the final – I haven’t kicked a ball to get us there. They’ve beaten plenty of Premiership teams this year and won well and that tells you about the quality that’s in the side.
If I get my fitness and sharpness up and start performing on a more consistent basis then it will hopefully give me a chance of playing in the final. But it’s all about the players who have been here – they’ve done the hard graft.”