THEY haven't nicknamed him Lazarus ...

but Anthony Stokes has already risen from the Lennoxtown ashes more than once in his Celtic career.

The Irish striker has fallen foul of the club's hierarchy repeatedly in his five-year stint at the club, with Neil Lennon having cause to haul the player over the coals for tarnishing the image of the club two seasons ago, while the striker was also axed from the squad for the final match of the 2010-11 SPL campaign for a breach of club discipline.

Last month he was disciplined by Ronny Deila for returning late from a trip to his Dublin hometown, a penalty that cost him his place for the double-header against Inter Milan in the knockout stages of the Europa League.

But while the player has returned from the cold to force his way back into the team from being out of favour before, this time his challenge is a little different.

Playing on the left flank for the bulk of the season in Deila's favoured 4-3-3 formation, Stokes' position is one of those under threat by the arrival of Gary Mackay-Steven from Dundee United. Both Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong have hit the ground running since their arrival from Tannadice on the final night of the transfer window.

If Stokes if feeling the pressure, however, he was reluctant to show it. And he was insistent his conversations with Deila have been specifically about improving his fitness and his game - pointers he has maintained he is trying to take on board.

"I speak to the gaffer on a regular basis," said the Irishman. "He wants me to improve different aspects of my game - defensively, my fitness and the shape I'm in, dropping some more weight.

"I have been trying to do all these things and every day in training I have been pushing myself more than ever as I know the competition is there.

"The last couple of games there have been one or two chances I haven't taken. I have played 60 minutes in the last two games and I feel quite comfortable, but I need to do my talking on the pitch.

"You can say what you want and train hard and put in all the work in the background, but it's the performances that count, and mine probably haven't been as high a standard as I would have expected. But I will keep working hard and I know they will come.

"I've been at the club for five years and seen plenty of players come and go and there always has been competition, and any time it's happened in the past, I have risen to it.

"So I am just trying to do the same thing again, focus on my football, work hard and hopefully do my talking on the pitch."

There is every chance Stokes will remain in the squad for Sunday's QTS League Cup final at Hampden against Dundee United since both Mackay-Steven and Armstrong are cup-tied.

It is the perfect platform for the player to underline the attributes he brings on the park to Celtic - and he is keen to play his part in what could be an historic campaign for the Parkhead side.

"My form in the past two games hasn't been great, but you go through that in football," he said. "I hit the post the other day and had a good chance when we played at home in the other game - but sometimes these things happen.

"I won't let my head go down, I know if I get another chance I will be confident to put it away and if I get the nod on Sunday, I will just be looking forward to playing and performing."

Stokes was at the centre of the incident in which Aiden Connolly won United a penalty last Sunday afternoon in the William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final.

Celtic were fuming at what they claimed was a dive from the youngster, and Stokes remains adamant there was no contact. Connolly has escaped sanction for the incident, something that the Irish forward was sceptical about.

While Stokes was irked at the incident, he nevertheless revealed that as a striker he, too, would expect a spot-kick to be awarded at even the slightest amount of contact in the penalty area.

"He's seen me, I was actually going to make a tackle and from one of the camera angles you can see I've gone to put my foot in, but I've pulled it away," he explained.

"He's already on the way down, so it's a strange one for me because there was no contact. It has gone to whoever's reviewing the situation and how they can come away and say that he's not dived is beyond me because I know I haven't made contact with him.

"There was a similar incident when we played Dundee a couple of weeks ago," Stokes continued. "I went in for a tackle in the box and I've almost tried to roll the tackle. I've seen him come in and I couldn't really get out of the way. But it's not a penalty, the player couldn't get out of the way.

"In that incident the other day he's seen that I was sticking my foot out and he's gone down before I even made contact. It's not like he was trying to get out of the way, he was going down regardless.

"He's tried to read the tackle from me and he's gone down too early, it's as simple as that."

Paying the penalty for his own indiscretions is something he hopes is a thing of the past.