Irish footballers and the Iranian first division are not a common pairing, but it seems ex-Celtic man Anthony Stokes is trying his best to make it a ‘thing’.
Forward Anthony Stokes joined Celtic in August 2010. Having already impressed in Scotland with Hibernian scoring 22 goals, it came as no surprise when the Dublin-born forward grabbed his first Hoops goal in his second appearances, the winner in a 2-1 defeat over Kilmarnock.
Unfortunately, Stokes’ goalscoring form came to a somewhat abrupt stop and by the end of the 2010 campaign his found himself out of favour – even missing the vital New Years Old Firm derby at Ibrox.
Form is temporary, and class is permanent as they say. And Anthony Stokes was, well, not class, but he had something. Heart, and plenty of it.
Fans absolutely love a workhorse. How can we not? They are reliable, loyal and hardworking. They chase down lost balls like a dog in a park and we celebrate their efforts as much as a 30-yard screamer. They never give up when all others have. Stokes was one of them.
He was not too bad in front of goal, either.
For the 2010/11 and 2011/12 campaigns, he bagged 20 and 21 goals respectively. Even saving Neil Lennon’s job along the way after netting a brace against Kilmarnock to keep Celtic within touching distance of Rangers. A defeat would have almost certainly meant the end for Lennon.
After six years and five domestic titles, Stokes moved back to Hibernian, where he collected a domestic cup, before an ill-fated move to Blackburn Rovers kicked off a rollercoaster ride through the footballing world.
Back to the Hibees he went in August 2017 before Greece and Apollon Smyrnis in the winter of 2018.
As football fans, we often hear about players casting their talents outside the realm of regular footballing regions into exotic lands such as China, Japan, India and even Qatar. Something we very, very rarely come across is individuals migrating their career to Iran. But that is exactly what former Celtic man Anthony Stokes has done, who now plays in the illustrious Persian Gulf Pro League for Tractor Sazi.
Scoring 11 goals in 22 appearances this season really is not bad going. Then again, this is Iranian domestic football we are talking about. Hardly the most prestigious.
To this day, Stokes remains the first and only Irishman to make the move and play in Iran.
Celtic fans, what are your standout memories of Anthony Stokes? Join the discussion in the comments section below…
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