Hughes ‘dis­turbed’ by Celtic’s in­ter­est in top scorer Stokes

I’m try­ing to build some­thing here, says Hibs man­ager

The Scotsman - - Sport - IaIN COLLIN

HIBeR­nIan man­ager John Hughes last night in­sisted Celtic were ‘miles’ away from land­ing an­thony stokes but con­fessed he was ‘dis­turbed’ by the Park­head side’s pub­licly-de­clared in­ter­est in the pro­lific striker.

stokes has emerged as a sign­ing tar­get for Celtic for a sec­ond time af­ter the glas­gow club missed out on the Ir­ish­man’s sig­na­ture when he left arse­nal for sun­der­land three years ago. But re­ports of a deal hav­ing al­ready been struck are well wide of the mark, ac­cord­ing to Hughes.

It is un­der­stood that Celtic, who yes­ter­day sold Marc-an- toine For­tune for a re­ported £2.2 mil­lion, have ini­tially val­ued the 22-year-old at £800,000, some way short of the price at which Hibs would be pre­pared to sell, and will have to con­sid­er­ably in­crease any fu­ture bid.

The Hibs board met yes­ter­day and it is be­lieved Celtic would have to shell out at least £1.2m to land the striker.

The Re­pub­lic of Ire­land in­ter­na­tion­al­ist ar­rived at easter Road on a three-year deal last sum­mer with a bat­tered rep­u­ta­tion to re­store af­ter the fail­ures of his spell at sun­der­land but im­pressed in fin­ish­ing sec­ond top scorer in the sPL with 23 goals.

Hibs, who re­lied heav­ily on the goals of stokes and Rior­dan in fin­ish­ing fourth last term, will be ex­pect­ing him to match that rate again this sea­son and it is un­der­stand­able that Hughes is per­turbed by the pos­si­bil­ity of los­ing him to Celtic.

“Right at this moment, I know there’s an in­ter­est and that’s it as far as I’m concerned,” said Hughes, who be­lieves the player is fully fo­cused on to­mor­row’s match with st Mir­ren. “ev­ery­body’s talk­ing like it’s a done deal and he’s away but that’s miles from the truth, ab­so­lutely miles from the truth.

“For him, I don’t know what he thinks, it might be a bit flat­ter­ing. But for me it’s a lit­tle bit dis­turb­ing, be­cause I’m try­ing to build some­thing at this club.

“It doesn’t sur­prise me when you’ve got a young kid like that scor­ing 23 goals and what he’s done and the tal­ent he’s got. He’s cer­tainly a tal­ented foot­baller. He’s still got a long way to go and he’ll only get bet­ter when he gets older.

“He’s go­ing to break into that full in­ter­na­tional squad on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and there’s a real tal­ent there. any­one who scored 23 goals is al­ways go­ing to at­tract at­ten­tion.

“I spoke to him on Fri­day morn­ing and the two of us didn’t know any­thing about it. all we know is the in­ter­est is def­i­nitely there, it’s not a case of spec­u­la­tion.”

With Hughes re­veal­ing that a con­tract of­fer to tri­al­ist striker Ro­mano Den­neboom, the nether­lands B cap, re­mains a pos­si­bil­ity, the Hibs man­ager has also in­sisted he is in the mar­ket for fresh re­cruits no mat­ter what hap­pens with stokes.

“as we speak, we’re still try­ing to add an­other two or three play- ers to the squad, to help the boys along,” he added. “I still think we’re a cou­ple of play­ers short. The close of the trans­fer win­dow com­ing up fast is the dis­turb­ing thing. But I would like to think, no mat­ter what hap­pens with stokesy, that we would have an­other two or three play­ers help­ing the group along and if stokesy’s in it then ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic.”

De­fender Paul Han­lon ad­mit­ted stokes’ strike rate would make him a dif­fi­cult team-mate to re­place.

“If he’s go­ing to bring 23 goals again this sea­son we would be happy for him to stay,” he said, “but it’s up to the clubs what hap­pens. If he stays we’re all happy, but if he goes you’ve got to wish him all the best.

“It’s hard to get a striker like that, who can score 23 goals, but we’ve got Derek Rior­dan and Colin nish.”

an­thony Stokes: 23 goals

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