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Anthony Stokes on John Hughes: he gave me a lot of freedom to go and express myself . . .

IT is an away match but Anthony Stokes will have thoughts of home when he meets John Hughes in Inverness tomorrow.

Anthony Stokes' admiration for John Hughes goes back to their days together at Falkirk and Hibernian
Anthony Stokes' admiration for John Hughes goes back to their days together at Falkirk and Hibernian

Hughes, who cultivated the talent of the Irishman at Falkirk and Hibernian, also offered the Celtic forward an unusual lesson in the ways of modern management. "I remember one time we were at Stephen O'Donnell's house, myself and Patrick Cregg," said Stokes of his time at Falkirk. "He just popped in. I didn't know what was going on but Patrick said that it was just what he did. He just popped round for a chat sometimes.

"For me that's good management, getting on with your players. Some people don't take to it but I loved him and so did 99% of the lads there."

The affection of Stokes for Hughes, now facing the arduous task of replacing Terry Butcher at Inverness, has endured. "He's someone I keep in contact with because I have a lot of respect for him," said Stokes. "He's been brilliant for me. He gave me a great chance when I went on loan to Falkirk. It was the stage in my career when I had to get out and get playing first-team football regularly. He gave me a great platform to show what I could do and it's something I will always be grateful to him for.

"I didn't know him from Adam when I went there but I clicked with him straight away. His management style really suited me and I became good pals with him. I've had some of the happiest times of my football career under him."

Stokes is unsure why the chemistry between a young Irishman and an idiosyncratic Scot worked. "I had a good understanding with him and he gave me a lot of freedom to go and express myself. I was only a young kid when I went there. Then when I went back I went on a bad run and he stuck by me, and then the goals started to flow. He's always backed me 100%."

He said there is more to Hughes than the image painted him of as one of football's reckless characters. "The one thing I'd say about him is that football's his life. It's all he does; it's all he speaks about; it's all you can get out of him," said Stokes. "He's got that reputation from way back of being a bit crazy from the stories that were going about. But he's a great football man and every minute he spends up and down the country scouting players and trying to make his teams better."

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