Boss who helped Arsenal teen bag 16 in 18 hails discovery

Anthony Stokes is now leading the line for Celtic, and the man who brought him to Scotland from Arsenal feels the decision was well judged.

Arsenal have a reputation for producing top quality youngsters, with numerous who do not make it at the club going onto enjoy solid careers elsewhere.

A perfect illustration of that is former strike sensation Anthony Stokes.

The Irishman was a reserve regular when the decision was taken in 2006 to loan him out. The club who picked him up was some 400 plus miles away from North London, SPL side Falkirk.

He was a rough gem spotted by manager John Hughes, and the gamble paid off.

Stokes was sensational, scoring 16 goals in 18 games - a return he did not top for the following three seasons.

It was enough to earn him a move to Sunderland for £2 million, which didn't work out - so he signed for Hibs instead where he bagged 23 goals in 43 games in 2009/10.

After winning an international call-up from Giovanni Trappatoni, Stokes joined Celtic, where he remains to this day. His first two seasons at the club were sensational, scoring a combined 40 goals, but last season struck just seven and has five this campaign so far.

He is now 25, and still has a chance to kick on and make even more of his career, but needs an improvement over the remaining months of this season.

Even so, his discovery is still one former Falkirk boss John Hughes is living off, having handed him his competitive league debut at 18.

Now boss of Inverness Caledonian Thistle, he told The Scotsman he is confident he can pick out hidden gems to help the club, reaching back to 2006 and using Stokes as a successful example.

"Will I still look to that English market? Well, there’s a similarity [between me and Butcher]. You’ll look at any market. But look at the success I’ve had with bringing English players up to Scotland and also the likes of Anthony Stokes as a young lad from Arsenal.

“There’s an eye for it, certainly. But you only do it successfully if you do your work properly and I pride myself on being a hard worker. You have to be sure bring the right kind of player and character into the dressing-room."

Stokes may not have been able to produce the sort of form he did at Falkirk on a consistent basis, but right then he was the perfect player for the club.

It may just be that Arsenal young guns Chuba Akpom and Benik Afobe get a proposal put to Arsene Wenger to spend the rest of their season in Inverness. For their development it may not be the worst idea in the world. 

images:  © EU Commisson

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