Hibs boss Alan Stubbs has claimed the capture of striker Anthony Stokes should be regarded as a “signature” signing for the Easter Road club.
The finishing touches to the move, which will see him return to the Capital on loan until the end of the season, were taking place today, namely Stokes being registered as a Hibs player with the SFA, leaving Stubbs free to play 27-year-old immediately in Saturday’s home match against St Mirren.
Stokes hasn’t played a first-team game since August but, Stubbs insisted, that won’t be a problem for a player who has averaged roughly a goal every two games throughout his career, saying: “Anthony is a signature signing. There’s no denying that. He has been training in that time so it won’t take him that long.
“It would have been better if he had been [playing], but we know exactly what we are getting – quality. That’s not in question. We’d hope to get him up to speed in training and get him into games. He will be involved this weekend.
“Everybody you speak to only has good things to say about him and his ability.”
Top scorer Jason Cummings has spoken to the Evening News of how he is looking forward to playing with Stokes, but Stubbs insisted there’s much wider competition for the striking roles with Dominique Malonga, James Keatings, Martin Boyle and recent arrival Chris Dagnall all fighting for their place in his side.
The head coach said: “The competition for places is very, very strong and that’s what I want, it can only bode well for everybody whichever team we put out.
“Jason is young but getting better and better. He will learn from Anthony but he will also learn from Chris just as he has learned from Dom. As long as he keeps doing what he is doing then the future is bright for him.”
Stubbs, who expects former Hibs midfielder Kevin Thomson to rejoin the club where he will coach younger age levels, insisted: “Anthony wanted to come here. I know the reasons why but it will be better coming from him.”
News that Celtic boss Ronny Deila was prepared to allow the Republic of Ireland hitman to leave on a temporary basis to gain the game time which has been denied him in Glasgow this season – he’s made only two appearances in the Hoops – sparked interest from a host of clubs.
Former Hibs manager John Hughes, who brought him to the club in the first place and was rewarded as Stokes struck up a prolific partnership with Derek Riordan in which the pair scored 41 goals between them that season, had hoped to be reunited with the player at Inverness Caley.
And Dundee United boss Mixu Paatelainen actually agreed a deal with Celtic hoping Stokes could help the Tannadice outfit who re 14 points adrift at the foot of the Premiership table.
A clutch of English clubs, including Rotherham, MK Dons and Charlton Athletic had also been hoping to tempt Stokes, but after Hibs also agreed terms with Celtic, Stokes set his heart on a return to Easter Road and watched Stubbs’ side in action as they drew 1-1 with another of his former clubs, Falkirk, on Sunday after completing a medical the previous day.