Rotherham United will have the man of the match from two of the last four Scottish FA Cup Finals on their hands if new boss Alan Stubbs succeeds in luring Anthony Stokes to New York Stadium.
The 27-year-old striker is available on a free transfer from Scottish giants Celtic and Stubbs, who took the Millers hot-seat 13 days ago, has already declared his interest.
He is waiting to speak to the agent of the player who set up two goals for Gary Hooper in the Hoops’ 2013 3-0 triumph over Hibernian and scored twice for Hibs in last month’s Hampden Park showpiece as Hibs saw off Rangers 3-2.
Stokes spent part of last season on loan at Hibernian, and journalist Anthony Brown, who reports on the club for the Edinburgh Evening News, has no doubts that the Republic of Ireland international would be a hit in the Championship with Rotherham.
“A lot of players have moved from Scotland to England and not been up to it, but I think Stokes is good enough to handle it,” Brown said.
“He has real quality. When he was match fit and on it for Hibs, there were times he was absolutely brilliant.
“He sees himself as a striker, but he drifts out to the left at times. He does a bit of everything. He’s not the quickest, but he’s skilful and has a good touch. He can beat a man, he can pass and he can deliver a cross. He can also drop deep, take the ball and score from 25 yards.”
Stokes arrived at Easter Road in January with huge expectations on him as he’d been a prolific scorer earlier in his Celtic career, but he endured a tough start as Hibs suffered a dip in form and he had to build up his match fitness after being out of favour at Parkhead.
“I think Hibs fans were expecting 30 goals in half a season,” Brown said. “They were a bit underwhelmed with him at the beginning, but his fitness and form improved. He was the player you always thought might make something happen and he became a hero when he scored twice in the cup final.”
Stokes has failed to make his mark in English football in the past, failing to get off the mark in 12 Championship appearances in a Sheffield United loan spell in 2008 and 2009 and finding the net only three times in 38 matches with Premier League Sunderland between 2007 and 2009.
But he has shone north of the border and competition will be fierce for the man who scored 76 goals in 191 appearances for Celtic and was on target nine times in 25 games for Hibs last term.
Stubbs was the attacker’s manager as Hibs came close to promotion to the Scottish Premier League last season while lifting the Scottish FA Cup for the first time since 1902 and the pair enjoy a close relationship.
“Stubbs has massive faith in Stokes,” Brown revealed. “He stuck by him when some Hibs fans thought he should be dropped and he was proved right as Stokes was coming to the boil by the end. They had some sort of rapport and Stokes enjoyed playing for him.”
Rotherham’s new boss has yet to make his first signing and says, with many agents away at Euro 2016, it could be another couple of weeks before business picks up speed.
Brown’s verdict on Stubbs’ recruitment in his two years with the Edinburgh club bodes well for the Millers’ prospects.
“He knows a player,” the reporter said. “His record on signings up here was superb. There were no duds.”