sport

Stokes: I am a better player

Celtic striker Anthony Stokes claims he has proved this season and that there is more to his game than just finding the net.

Stokes was widely expected to fill Gary Hooper's boots as the Hoops' top goalscorer, but the Irishman has only found the net 15 times, 12 adrift of team-mate Kris Commons.

Stokes has hit eight goals in his last 10 games but struggled badly in the middle part of the campaign when he struck just twice in 25.

"I was on fire at the start of the season, and then I went through a spell when I just couldn't buy a goal," said Stokes, who was speaking at the launch of the club's goal of the season vote.

"But the performances were there, I felt like I was playing well and bringing a lot to the team, but I just haven't scored as many goals as I would have liked.

"In the last season or two the gaffer has asked me to become more of a team player and I think I have shown that this season.

"I actually kind of prefer it in a way, you get to see a bit more of the ball and get to make things happen."

Celtic boss Neil Lennon asked Stokes to improve his contribution outside the box and the former Sunderland striker feels his development into a team player has helped the side.

He said: "I feel like I bring more to the team than just goals. If you look at my performances at Hibs, I scored a lot of goals but I wouldn't say I did a lot of work outside the box. I just tried to stay in there and score goals.

"This season I have tried to mix it up. As a striker I still judge myself on goals and that's what counts, but I have tried to improve other aspects of my game.

"I feel I have brought more to the team but at the end of the season a lot of people won't remember that, they will just look at your stats. Sometimes stats can be a bit deceiving."

The Republic of Ireland forward hopes his more rounded game will improve his international prospects under new manager Martin O'Neill after falling out of favour with previous boss Giovanni Trapattoni.

Stokes, whose country host Turkey in a friendly on May 25, said: "I think the more variety of roles you can play, the better chance you will have of playing.

"It's been great to get back involved in the Irish set-up. I missed being involved and I got a couple of caps this year and started a good few games.

"So it's been brilliant for me and something I am really enjoying and looking forward to when the squads are coming up, because I know now I have a good chance, if my club form is going well, that I might get called up.

"I look at the games I played in, even Germany away, I missed a couple of chances. But as a striker you can't dwell on missed chances, you just have to perform as well as you possibly can."