Alan Stubbs believes Anthony Stokes’ move to Hibs can help the striker gatecrash the Republic of Ireland’s European Championship squad this summer.
And the Easter Road head coach promised the 27-year-old he’ll do all he can to push his case with Irish boss Martin O’Neill.
Although he won the last of his nine international caps more than two years ago, Stokes revealed he hasn’t been far from O’Neill’s thoughts having been placed on standby in recent months as Irish squads were announced.
But, while admitting it might be tough for the former Arsenal, Falkirk and Sunderland player to make a belated push for a place in France, Stubbs insisted returning to Hibs – where he scored 23 goals in one season – could help him get there. Adamant Stokes should still see that as a goal, Stubbs said: “He shouldn’t rule anything out. I think any player with the quality he has got should still have that ambition.
“There are not many players with that ability, who turn their back on their country. And that’s not the case with him.
“It’s just that when you’re not playing it’s difficult for Martin to pick him. But when you are playing and doing the business on the pitch, speculation rises and the chance of getting a call-up increases.”
To that end, Stubbs revealed he’ll be making contact with O’Neill to appraise him of Stokes’ progress at Easter Road. He said: “I will speak to Martin. Everyone knows what I think of Martin, he’s a top bloke. I hope for Anthony’s sake that he has an opportunity where, if he does really well, he may just gatecrash that squad.
“I think that will be difficult because Martin is very loyal. But you should never say never.
“Martin knows I will be honest and frank about what I think. But Martin is a lot more experienced, and more importantly a lot cleverer than me!
“He’ll have a fair idea now about who he is taking, I would have thought. I’m just looking forward to working with Stokesy and seeing where we go with it.”
Although delighted to have fought off stiff competition for Stokes, Stubbs admitted he initially thought it would be difficult to win his signature but revealed his hopes soared after speaking to the player direct. He said: “I knew there were certain clubs in, and that’s outwith Inverness and Dundee United.
“When I saw that, I thought it was going to be difficult. It had to be Anthony driving this forward more than anybody.
“And I was thrilled when he told me that he wanted to come here – and this was the only place he wanted to come.
“I had a really positive conversation with him. I told him about what he wanted to do here – and he’d spoken to the players in the dressing-room about it.
“He was genuinely really excited about coming here, playing and training. That was great to hear on the phone. I thought we had a really good chance of getting him.
“After speaking to him, I was more optimistic that it was going to happen than I had been before. It was quite a straightforward, very easy conversation with him.”
Stubbs revealed Stokes will go straight into the squad for tomorrow’s home match against St Mirren, saying: “He hasn’t played for a while and hasn’t done a lot of training this week.
“He will be in the squad tomorrow, definitely. I will make a decision before the game whether that’s going to be from the start or from the bench.
“But I’ve got him for four months, not four weeks. So there’s no mad rush to throw him in at the deep end.
“The last thing we want to do is cause him unnecessary problems and heighten the risk of an injury by throwing him in too quick.”