By Adam Clark
On-loan Arsenal striker Anthony Stokes hit his second successive hat-trick for Falkirk on Saturday and took his phenomenal scoring tally to nine goals in four Scottish Premier League matches.
The prolific 18-year-old has been a sensation since joining the Bairns on a five-month loan deal in September and was named the SPL's Young Player of the Month for October.
Julian Peck, Sports Editor of the Falkirk Herald, has been tracking Stokes' progress since his move north of the border and he's convinced a big future lies ahead for the Dublin-born youngster.
"His all-round play has been superb," Peck told Arsenal.com. "His movement off the ball is fantastic and he's got great skill levels. He's good in the air and his finishing is so clinical and second to none. Every time he gets in front of goal he looks like he's going to score.
"I'd say there was a fair level of expectation when he signed because of the other players we've had from Arsenal like Mark Howard, Patrick Cregg and Stephen O'Donnell. They've all been impressive and you can tell they've been well versed in how to play football. I've been surprised how quickly Stokes has adapted to the SPL, given his age, but from his first showing you knew he was a classy player. He just looked really sharp, settled immediately and didn't look out of sorts. It was like he'd been in the team for a while.
Two weeks after joining the club a Stokes strike at Inverness Caledonian Thistle saw Falkirk progress to the CIS Cup Quarter-Finals for the first time since 1994. In the SPL his goals have seen the club climb to seventh in the table after a poor start which saw them pick up just one point from their first five outings. Unsurprisingly, his exploits have brought hero status.
"The fans love him," said Peck. "Anyone that's going to score goals and move the club up the table like he's done is going to be hero-worshipped. Dunfermline are our big rivals and he was told by the Club captain [Steven Thomson] that if he scored a goal there he'd be a hero. Of course, he scored three. Now, the press are all over him like a rash and everything on Sunday was about him.
"He's a massive part of the team now. Falkirk are a very good young team but Stokes has put the icing on the cake. He adds that final touch."
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