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Star ‘won’t be forced out’

CELTIC footballer Anthony Stokes has pledged the people who targeted his home will not drive him out of the club.

anthony Stokes: Has  been forced to move home.
anthony Stokes: Has been forced to move home.

The Republic of Ireland striker spoke for the first time after a house window was smashed while his pregnant girlfriend Debbie Lawlor was inside.

He said he has now been forced to move out of his home in Broxburn, West Lothian, and suggested his property was attacked because of his Irish roots .

While he said he would not be forced out, he admitted that it could be difficult being an Old Firm player due to the constant threat of sectarian attacks or abuse.

Stokes, 24, who was in Inverness playing for his club at the time of the incident 11 days ago, is the latest Old Firm player to suffer violence or intimidation off the pitch.

Ms Lawlor, also 24, was in the property alone but was unhurt. It was the second time their property had apparently been targeted in a year following an earlier act of vandalism.

Celtic’s Northern Ireland-born manager Neil Lennon allegedly received letter bombs earlier this year and was attacked by a Hearts fan at a game in May. Celtic’s Northern Ireland stars Paddy McCourt and Niall McGinn have also received bullets in the post.

Two men, aged 41 and 43, were charged earlier this year in connection with alleged letter bombs sent to Lennon, lawyer Paul McBride, QC, and Trish Godman, a prominent Celtic supporter and the former deputy presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament.

Stokes, when asked yesterday if he had considered moving clubs because of the incident, replied: “Not at all”, before adding: “I have loved my time here and this season has been one of the most enjoyable in my career. I feel settled and enjoying my football.

“I love playing here. I want to try and stay here and settle down for a few years.”

He added: “If you are going to play for the Old Firm, you have to expect that, but being Irish as well does not help.

“At any club you go to, you will get a bit of hassle. However, all the eyes are on you if you are playing for the Old Firm and living around Glasgow or Edinburgh.

“I did not want to come through to Glasgow every day [after signing for Celtic] but I probably did pick a bad spot. I did not really do my homework on that one.”

The Dublin-born star had kept the property following his £1.2 million transfer from Hibs in the summer of 2010.

He added: “I was happy there [Broxburn] and had a lot of friends from my Hibs days who were nearby. That was one of the reasons I stayed but I am glad to be through here now. Glasgow has grown on me and it is handier for the training ground.”

Lennon last week said the incident should never have been allowed to happen. The manager, who also received death threats when described it as the “downside” of being a Celtic player.

He was forced to retire from international football after a death threat before a Northern Ireland game in 2002. Following the alleged letter-bombs, he was provided with protection by a security guard.

Meanwhile, police are investigating an alleged sectarian incident after Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty’s car windows were smashed at a filling station.

The Northern Ireland internationalist is understood to have been at a Morrisons store in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, when several youths threw objects at his car after he left the vehicle to buy petrol on November 21.

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