Ant: Parkhead is platform for Griff to be Scots star

IN HIS first start alongside Leigh Griffiths, Anthony Stokes blasted home a hat-trick.

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Anthony Stokes has not scored for his country at senior level
Anthony Stokes has not scored for his country at senior level

In their next outing together, the Republic of Irleand international sent the new Bhoy through to score his first goal for Celtic.

Now Stokes hopes their strike-rate can secure both of them a place in their respective teams when the Republic take on Scotland in the European Championship qualifiers.

Griffiths fell out of Gordon Strachan's plans as he dropped out of the Wolves side prior to his move to Parkhead.

But Stokes - who has been brought back into the Irish camp since Giovanni Trapattoni left and was replaced by Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane - believes he is the perfect example of how fortunes can turn around if you are doing well for the high-profile Hoops.

"No disrespect to any of his other clubs, but Leigh's on a better platform here," said Stokes, who has won eight caps.

"And if he performs well, that gives him a greater chance to also play for Scotland.

"It's great for him to settle in so quickly and get his first goal.

"He's done brilliantly overall since he came in and I'm sure he's only going to improve."

Stokes felt their partnership would click from the off and continued: "It doesn't surprise me. The way we play, we're slightly different to each other.

"I've noticed in games that, every time I turn, he's making runs or closing up to allow me to play one-twos with him.It's worked well for us."

Stokes will keep his fingers crossed the slight calf twinge which forced Griffiths off at Tynecastle clears up to allow them to link up again at Pittodrie tonight.

He acknowledges this represents one of the stiffest tests they will face on the Hoops' 12-game run-in, and makes no attempt to underplay the threat their Scottish Cup conquerors pose to their unbeaten league campaign.

"Aberdeen are right up there with one of the strongest squads," said Stokes. "They've got some very good individual players.

"Off the back of our last result against them, there is a little bit of extra spice in this game.

"But it's going to be difficult and we'll have to be at our very best to get anything out of the game."

On the way back down the road, Stokes knows the banter between himself and the Scotland players in the Celtic squad will be ratcheted up a notch or two.

Scott Brown has yet to get involved, but Stokes is sure it is only a matter of time.

"There's the possibility of having one of the games at Parkhead as well, so it will be interesting to see what happens," said the man who admits scoring for his country at the home of his club would be a dream come true.

Stokes said: "I have not scored for Ireland yet at senior level, and I've thought about it many nights. It's something I want to do, but I need to keep myself in the squad and push for a place because there's a lot of competition."

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