No, that is not a misprint. Celtic hammered poor Aberdeen 9-0 on Saturday afternoon in the Scottish Premiership. The most exciting aspect for Irish soccer fans was talented 22 year old Anthony Stokes banging in three of the goals. Stokes has adapted to life at Celtic seamlessly and is hammering in goals at a stunning rate.
Stokes could have had four, as the regular penalty taker for the Hoops he was entitled to take a late spot-kick, but handed the ball to Paddy McCourt who had been struggling with form the last couple of weeks. McCourt promptly scored and commended Stokes's generosity post match.
Amazingly, despite a year long goal spree, Stokes has only played three times for Ireland, a fact that is even more galling when you consider the injury problems and loss of form amongst the usual stable of Irish strikers.
Celtic and Stokes were given a massive boost by the arrival at training on Friday of Hoops legend Henrik Larsson. Stokes said "Henrik was my hero and it was great to see him in the flesh at training. It gave us all a big lift to meet a player of his stature.’’. Henrik was in town to attend training, the match, and a benefit dinner for Celtic legend Chris Sutton. He reportedly was delighted with Celtic’s nine goal haul and singled out Stokes as an exciting talent to watch.
Stokes has now made the net bulge eight times in just ten games for Celtic this season, this after scoring a ridiculous 22 goals in just 40 games for Hibernian last season. He is scoring goals in the Scottish Premiership, for a Champions League caliber side, at a phenomenal rate.
If Stokes is left out of the next Republic of Ireland squad, and indeed if he does not see some improvement in his playing time situation for a team with a worrying dearth of attacking options, serious questions will surely have to be asked of Irish manager Giovanni Trapattoni’s attitude and position.
Trapattoni can make all the excuses he wants and waffle on about 'systems' until the cows come home, however you simply can not ignore the rate Stokes is scoring at, and the attacking potential he would bring to a stale Irish setup.
30 goals the in slightly over a year tell us all we need to know, the future for the Irish attack is now, and the future is Anthony Stokes.