By Adam Clark
Arsenal youngster Anthony Stokes is getting used to the attention.
The Dublin-born striker went into Tuesday's CIS Cup Quarter-Final against Celtic on the back of nine goals in four games and with Scottish newspapers singing his praises from their back pages.
Stokes' extra-time equaliser and a penalty-shootout victory at Parkhead ensured he, and Falkirk, hit the headlines once more on Wednesday morning. Arsenal.com caught up with the in-form Irishman to find out about life in Scotland, his prolific form and what lies ahead.
How did it feel to score the goal that ultimately led to Falkirk's victory on Tuesday?
"It was such a great feeling to score. Being a boyhood Celtic fan the feeling was just amazing, especially to score so soon after they had. I think that gave us the belief to go on and win. It was an unbelievable feeling beating Celtic in their own back yard and it's great to be in the Semi-Finals. I thought as a team we worked hard and stuck together. We played well at home against them [earlier in the season when Falkirk lost 1-0] but last night we got on top and created the better-crafted chances. I'm always happy when I score but the most important thing is the result. Overall I think we deserved the win even if some might say we rode our luck at times."
Your scoring record is fantastic. Can it continue?
"Every time I go out I'm just trying to score goals. I've scored against the lower teams, the mid-table teams, and now Celtic. I'm not getting carried away but I would love to keep up a ratio of a goal a game. I'm a little bit up at the moment I think and if I do it I'll be really happy."
How did you end up on loan north of the border?
"I think there were one or two Championship clubs interested but Falkirk have a good relationship with Arsenal and [Head of Youth Development] Liam Brady and I took all that into consideration and decided to come here. The boss here [John Hughes] said he'd give me a chance in the first team and for that reason I thought it would be a good move. I just want to be playing first-team football which will help me improve as a player."
How have things gone so far?
"When I first came up we had a few bad results but recently the team has been playing well and I've been scoring a few goals. I'm delighted I've scored as many as I have. The way we're going at the moment is fantastic and I'm glad to be part of it. It's not all down to me though. It's down to the whole team, the midfield and my two strike partners. I'm just getting in good positions and they're making the chances for me."
Are you surprised at how quickly you've adapted to the SPL?
"In my first few games I found it tough but after that I settled quickly. The way they play here is to play on the ground and not hit and chase the ball. Arsenal are probably the best footballing team in the world and John Hughes has an idea of how he wants us to play and it's similar to the way I was brought up to play at Arsenal. There's probably no team in Scotland that plays football like Falkirk do."
Have former Arsenal players Patrick Cregg and Stephen O'Donnell helped you settle in?
"They've been brilliant. I was good friends with them at Arsenal so they've been great to have around. There's a great spirit here and a good bunch of lads so it's been no hassle settling in. I think that's helped my football too because I'm happy up here and enjoying my time."
You won the SPL's Young Player of the Month for October. Well done...
"I was delighted to win it. It's such a great honour and I just hope I can keep the form up and keep scoring goals."
The level of expectancy must be rising. How are you coping under the spotlight?
"The weight of expectation hasn't been too bad. Obviously there's been a lot of press and lots of interviews but only at games. If I'm not playing or training it's fine because I live in a small town on the outskirts where I'm on my own and there's no pressure."
What are the main things you hope to learn from playing in Scotland?
"Throughout my career my position has swapped around [he often played in midfield for Arsenal Reserves] but I've always wanted to test myself as an out-and-out striker. If I play up front I can score goals and I think I've proven that up here. I know I can still improve on every aspect of my game and if I get as much experience up here as I can up hopefully that will happen."
Finally Anthony, where do you go from here?
"I'm an Arsenal player so my main aspiration is to get
into the Arsenal first team. At the end of the day, if that
doesn't happen I'll have to look elsewhere. I think I could
cut it in the Premiership but I need somewhere to show what I can
do. At the moment I'm just getting on with my football."
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