JOHN HUGHES, Anthony Stokes’ former manager at Falkirk and Hibs, wants to take the Celtic striker on loan to Inverness Caley Thistle for the rest of the season.
And erratic defender Efe Ambrose could also be lured away from the Hoops with former England boss Sven Goran Eriksson poised to offer the Nigerian a tax-free windfall to move to China.
Barnsley and Hibs are also interested in Stokes and it was former Parkhead defender Hughes who drew the best from the Republic of Ireland international during two spells as his boss.
And the Scottish Cup-winning manager is eager to take him to the Highland capital for the remainder of the campaign – despite extending the loan deal of top scorer Miles Storey from Swindon on Wednesday.
Stokes is desperate to figure in Martin O’Neill’s Irish squad for the European Championship Finals in France this summer, but has rarely figured in Ronny Deila’s Celtic plans and was also hit with a two-week suspension for breaching the club’s social media rules.
Ironically, that took place during a 3-1 win in Inverness when he complained on Twitter about not making the team.
Hughes revealed he sought out Stokes to deliver a pep talk after that game, saying: “Stokesy is a maverick of a footballer, but he’s not a bad lad. He is a lovable rogue.
“I was aware of all the Twitter stuff that was going on and I was aware of his frustration. And I could understand it.
“I said to him: ‘Stokesy, do me a favour. Don’t let the penny drop when it’s too late.’
“I told him to go prove people wrong. To knuckle down. Will he listen to me? Well, if he doesn’t then I wish him all the best.
“Listen, I’m always there for him. I always will be. I’m there for a phone call, I make a point of keeping in touch with him,”
Loans between SPFL clubs in the same division are restricted to one at a time from any one club, and the return of Ryan Christie to Celtic frees up the Highlanders to make a move for Stokes.
Meanwhile, Ambrose could be set for a Hoops exit if Eriksson, currently coach of Chinese Super League runners-up Shanghai SIPG, gets his way.
The club, owned by the Shanghai International Port Group, are one of three Chinese league sides prepared to offer the defender a move to the Far East.
The champions rejected previous approaches for the player from Olympiakos and Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Ambrose has returned to Deila’s starting line-up as cover for the injured Dedryck Boyata in the last two games against Hearts and Partick Thistle.
Last weekend, however, the manager travelled to Spain to watch Serbian defender Aleksander Pantic play for Eibar against Real Betis, prompting speculation the Norwegian will sign a central defender to shore up a shaky defence this month.
Ambrose has 18 months left on his current contract, but, bolstered by huge broadcasting rights, Chinese Super League clubs can lure players with substantial salaries.
Last July, ex-Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan signed a two-year deal with Shanghai SIPG worth a reported £162,000 a week.