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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 9, 2007

Keane key in Stokes' Sunderland decision

Teenage striker Anthony Stokes admitted Roy Keane's ambition persuaded him to quit Arsenal and join Sunderland in a £2million deal.

Stokes, 18, has signed a three-and-a-half-year contract at the Stadium of Light.

He shot to prominence after a spectacular loan spell at Scottish Premier League outfit Falkirk earlier this season, which yielded 16 goals in 18 games.

The loan ended on January 2 and sparked a race for his signature among several clubs - but Stokes opted for promotion-chasing Sunderland.

'I spoke to Roy Keane about everything, he told me his hopes for the club, and it made up my mind,' said Stokes, who could make his debut this weekend against Ipswich.

'I'm excited about the move and it's brilliant to be here. It has been a hectic few days, sorting things out, and now I'm looking forward to training and playing.'

Stokes said: 'I had a great time at Falkirk, but I am just concentrating on Sunderland and doing well here for the next three or four years.

'I needed to stake a claim to play every week and hopefully I can do that at Sunderland.

'If somebody offers me another 16 goals between now and the end of the season, I would take that any day of the week. I would be a happy man.

'I am confident we can mount a strong promotion challenge. I talked to (manager) Roy (Keane) about that as well and we are only three points off the play-offs.

'I am just glad the transfer stuff is all over and I can get on with playing football.

'I am looking forward to getting a week's training with the lads and hopefully I will get a few minutes against Ipswich on Saturday.'

Dublin-born Stokes, a Republic of Ireland Under-21 international, became the first man to score back-to-back Scottish Premier League hat-tricks, when hit three against Dundee United and Dunfermline in October.

He broke into Arsenal's reserve team as a 15-year-old, but made only one competitive senior appearance, in the 3-0 Carling Cup third round victory at Sunderland last season.

However, his form at Falkirk alerted a series of suitors, and Keane had to battle to secure his services ahead of Celtic and Charlton.

Stokes said: 'I am excited about the move to Sunderland. I took everything into consideration and just felt it was right for me.

'Arsenal are a great club and I have only got good things to say about them. I have trained and played with some great players there and it has helped my game.

'I am glad I got the opportunity to play there, but it was time for me to move on and try to get first-team football.'

Sunderland's Irish connections - chairman Niall Quinn headed the largely Irish Drumaville consortium's take-over on Wearside before appointing former international team-mate Keane as his manager - proved a major pull for the newcomer.

Stokes told the club's official website: 'The fact that there are such strong Irish connections at Sunderland helped me make the decision.

'It is going to be easier to settle in. I know a few of the lads here already.'