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Why Stan should play Anto Stokes

Tony Cascarino likes what he’s seen this season of the 18-year-old Dubliner.

Tony Cascarino, 16 Nov 2006



I’m writing this on the eve of what I’m sure will be an emphatic Ireland victory against San Marino who, let’s be honest, would have a hard time beating the Dog & Duck pub eleven.

The argument that you need to play teams better than yourself to improve is true in the case of Turkey, Israel and even the Faroes, but in the 16 years they’ve been in European competition San Marino have showed absolutely no signs of improvement, In fact, following the 13-0 thrashing Germany gave them, you could argue they’ve got worse.

While I appreciate the comedy value of them scoring against England, San Marino and five or six of the other whipping boys should be made to pre-qualify.

I must say I found Steve Staunton’s decision to axe Paddy Kenny from the squad unduly harsh. Yes, he had a bit of a nightmare in Cyprus, but so did John O’Shea and Andy Brian and he didn’t drop them. Overall this season, Paddy Kenny’s Premiership form for Sheffield United has been good and he has to be ahead of lads who are playing for Brighton and Barnsley.

Given his amazing displays recently for Falkirk, I’m also disappointed that Anto Stokes only made the B Squad. I saw him play against Celtic and thought he did very well. His feet and movement are good; he doesn’t take too long on the ball before getting a shot off; and he’s pretty decent in the air. What he doesn’t have is the lightening pace you need to be a regular in the Arsenal side. If I was advising him, I’d say finish the season off at Falkirk and then get a transfer to a side like Bolton or West Ham where he has a decent chance of establishing himself in the first-team.

The way he lets the ball come across his body is reminiscent of Robbie Keane, though he’s a bit more of a predator than Robbie is. People say, “Oh, it’s only the SPL”, but the bottom line is that it took him two games to score more goals in Scotland than I did in nine months.

The ugly side of football was on display again last weekend with two more coin throwing incidents and Bristol Rovers’ Sean Rigg getting punched so hard by an opponent that his jaw broke in two places.

While I acknowledge that the Barrow lad who threw the punch, James Cotterill, was totally out of order, I don’t agree with treating incidents that occur on the football field as common assault. Players get caught up in the moment and do things that are reprehensible, but not in my book criminal.

What most definitely is criminal is firing coins at players and officials. It’s only a matter of time before one of these cowards is convicted, and when they are they should get a long jail sentence to deter others.

The worst incident I saw of that kind was at Millwall. We had a young winger called David Byrne who wasn’t the most popular with the home support, and one afternoon taking a corner he had a Stanley knife held to his throat by a fan who screamed, “You’re going to fucking get this, Byrne!”

What the coin-throwing does do is put the scuffle between Alan Pardew and Arsene Wenger into perspective. It was handbags stuff and not in any way worthy of an F.A. investigation. Frankly, if I were a West Ham or Arsenal supporter, I’d be delighted that Pardew was that pleased and Wenger that upset when Marlon Harewood netted the winner.

What does brown me off about Arsene is his constant whining at the opposition. Of course teams coming to the Emirates are going to be defensively minded. Against Everton he, unfairly in my mind, accused Andy Johnson of being a diver beforehand, and afterwards criticised David Moyes because he didn’t gift Arsenal all three points by attempting to play attacking football against them.


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