Simon Turnbull: Stokes and the McCoist parallel

Keane's Sunderland the only destination for a striker who can make history

Sunderland have been this way before, of course. Back in the summer of 1981, in the days when men were men and the First Division was the top English League to play in, the Wearside club caused quite a stir by paying what was described as "big money" for a teenage striker who had been banging in the goals for one of the lesser-light teams in Scotland. His name? Ask one of the captains on A Question Of Sport.

Yes, Anthony Stokes will be doing very nicely, thank you, if he gets as far in football and in life as Alistair Murdoch McCoist, the fresh-faced Scot who signed for Sunderland from St Johnstone for £350,000, a month short of his 19th birthday. Not that Ally McCoist, in his time on Wearside, succeeded in living up to the great expectations that came with the price tag and barrage of goals he had plundered for St Johnstone.

In his first season with Sunderland the young McCoist scored just twice. In his second he got six - before moving back north of the border for a knocked-down £185,000 and proceeding to establish himself as the most prolific goalscorer in Rangers' history.

There are several striking similarities between the McCoist who arrived at Roker Park in August 1981 and the Stokes who took his first bow as a Sunderland player at the Stadium of Light yesterday. Both commanded substantial fees (McCoist £350,000; Stokes an initial £1 million, with the potential for a further £1m to follow). Both were 18. Both were prolific goalscorers in Scotland (McCoist bagged 22 for St Johnstone in the 1980-81 season, including two hat-tricks against Rangers; Stokes netted 16 in 18 games on loan from Arsenal to Falkirk, including the first back-to-back hat-tricks in Scottish Premier League history). Both were to make their Sunderland debuts against Ipswich. And both had highlights in their hair.

There are, however, some notable differences. McCoist combined playing for St John-stone with a job working for the Overseas Development Office. He found the switch to life as a full-time professional footballer a difficult adjustment to make. Stokes is hardly a seasoned professional, but he has been an Arsenal academy and reserve team player since the age of 15.

The young Dubliner has also joined a Sunderland set-up which is going places under the management of Roy Keane and the chairmanship of Niall Quinn. McCoist played under Alan Durban in a Sunderland side drifting aimlessly in the lower reaches of the old First Division - as anaemic as the greatly unloved white-and-red pinstriped jerseys in which they played. That is one accusation unlikely to be levelled against any team managed by the full-blooded Keane.

"This is a club on the rise," said Stokes, explaining his decision to plump for Sunderland ahead of Charlton or Celtic. "Roy explained where he saw the club going and what he thought of me. I took all of that into consideration and thought it was the right place for me to develop.

"Roy sees Sunderland as a Premiership club. That's where he wants to be and that's where I want to play, so we're on the same lines there. We're not far off a play-off position, so hopefully this year or next year we'll get that opportunity."

It was an opportunity Stokes was never granted at Arsenal. His one first-team appearance came in the Carling Cup at Sunderland in October 2005, as a substitute for Arturo Lupoli. "I wouldn't say I played," he said. "I got two or three minutes."

Not that Stokes harbours any regrets about his time as a Gunner-in-reserve. "None at all," he insisted. "If you're looking to develop as a youngster, I think Arsenal's one of the best places in the world to be because of the style of football they play and what the coaching is like there.

"If you look at the amount of youngsters who have come from Arsenal and are playing first-team football elsewhere now it's quite high. So I'm happy with my decision to go to Arsenal and I'm happy that I've ended up here. I was given the option to go back to Arsenal from Falkirk but I think this is the right place for me. I might have had to sit tight and wait for a year or two at Arsenal but I'd rather play first-team football now and try to develop early in my career."

As Arsène Wenger remarked last week, there were seven good reasons why Stokes was going to struggle to get another first-team chance at Arsenal. They go by the names of Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor, Julio Baptista, Jérémie Aliadière, Nicklas Bendtner and Arturo Lupoli.

At Sunderland it is rather different. For all the progress they have made in the Championship under their fledgling manager, they have needed a natural goalscorer. "We're delighted to get Anthony," Keane reflected. "If you look at our games recently we've had lots of good possession; we've just been lacking something in the attacking third. Hopefully, Anthony will give us that something extra.

"The way we play and the way he plays, I think we're suited to him. I really believe this is the best move for him at this stage of his career. I feel this is the right club for him."

Is the price right, though - at £1m to £2m? "It's like anything else," Keane said. "If you want a nice meal, you have to pay the money. If you want a cheap meal, you go to the chippy."

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home