Hughes ‘disturbed’ by Celtic’s interest in top scorer Stokes
I’m trying to build something here, says Hibs manager
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