Stokes began his senior career with Arsenal, but established himself with a successful loan spell with Falkirk in 2006, scoring 14 goals in 16 SPL games. Stokes then signed for Sunderland in a £2 million deal, but he struggled to hold down a place in the Sunderland first team.
He moved back to Scottish football when Hibernian signed him for £500,000 in August 2009. He again enjoyed success in the SPL, scoring over 20 goals in his only full season with Hibs. Stokes moved to boyhood heroes Celtic shortly after the start of the following season, for a fee of around £1.2 million. Stokes played regularly for Celtic under the management of Neil Lennon and enjoyed success, but fell out of favour under Ronny Deila. In the latter part of the 2015–16 season he was loaned to Hibernian, who he helped win the 2015–16 Scottish Cup. After a season with Blackburn Rovers, Stokes joined Hibernian for a third time in 2017.
Stokes played in nine full internationals for the Republic of Ireland between 2007 and 2014.
Stokes was born Anthony Byrne, but was adopted by his aunt and uncle Joan and John Stokes at 18-months old. His adoptive parents paid for him to attend Terenure College, a private Roman Catholic school.
Stokes played for Kilnamanagh, Esker Celtic Football Club, Cherry Orchard and Shelbourne youth teams, before signing for Arsenal.
Stokes broke into the Arsenal reserve team at only 15 years old. He made his first-team debut as a substitute in Arsenal's League Cup tie against Sunderland on 25 October 2005, coming on for Arturo Lupoli in the 88th minute of a 3–0 win. He trained with Sunderland with a view to a loan move in July 2006, but Sunderland manager Niall Quinn decided against it due to Sunderland's large squad depth and lack of a reserve team.
Arsenal agreed a loan deal with Falkirk that saw Stokes play for the Scottish Premier League (SPL) side until the end of 2006. Stokes scored his first goal for Falkirk in a 1–0 victory at Inverness Caledonian Thistle on 19 September 2006 in the Scottish League Cup. He followed that up on 21 October with two more goals against Inverness. On 28 October, he scored his first competitive hat-trick during Falkirk's 5–1 victory over Dundee United. Stokes then scored another hat-trick in the following match against Dunfermline Athletic, which meant that he had scored nine goals in just four games. Having become the first player to score hat-tricks in successive SPL games, Stokes then hit a third in what proved to be his last game for Falkirk, a 3–1 home victory over Inverness on 30 December.
On 7 November, Stokes scored an equaliser for Falkirk in extra time in a League Cup match against Celtic, Falkirk going through 5–4 on penalties. His continuing good form saw him named Young Player of the Month for October and November. By the end of his loan spell, Stokes had scored 16 goals in 18 league and cup appearances.
Stokes was transferred by Arsenal to Sunderland for £2 million in January 2007. Celtic and Charlton Athletic had also been interested in the player, but Stokes revealed that he was greatly influenced by Sunderland manager and former Irish international, Roy Keane, in making his ultimate decision. Stokes was originally handed the 26 shirt at Sunderland, but after the departure of Jon Stead to Sheffield United he was given the number 9 shirt. Stokes made his Sunderland debut a few days later, and crossed to set up David Connolly to give Sunderland a one-goal win over Ipswich. Stokes scored his first goal for Sunderland on 10 February 2007 against Plymouth Argyle, scoring from 20 yards after coming on as a substitute.
Stokes was barred from The Glass Spider club in Sunderland after Keane blamed it for distracting Stokes from his training. The club owner offered to revoke the ban after the 2007–08 season and to give Stokes a complimentary bottle of champagne. Stokes then scored his first Premier League goal; a last-minute winner against Derby County that took Sunderland out of the relegation zone. Before the start of the 2008–09 season Stokes lost the Sunderland number 9 shirt and was handed the squad number 44 instead. On 23 September 2008, Stokes scored two late goals to level a League Cup tie against Northampton Town.
On 17 October 2008, Stokes agreed a three-month loan deal to Sheffield United, with the possibility of extending it for the season. Stokes again took the shirt that was previously vacated by Jon Stead, this time number 8. Stokes made his debut for the Blades in the local derby against Sheffield Wednesday a few days later, coming on as a second-half substitute. Stokes started his time at Bramall Lane as a first team regular but was soon dropped to the bench and returned to Sunderland having made 12 appearances but failed to score a goal.
In March 2009, Stokes joined Crystal Palace on loan, scoring from a solo effort after his first start against Preston North End. This was his only goal for Palace, however, and he returned to Sunderland at the end of the loan spell.
Stokes joined Hibernian for an undisclosed fee, reported by the Newcastle Evening Chronicle to be around £500,000, in August 2009. This meant that he linked up again with John Hughes, who had been his manager during his loan spell at Falkirk. Stokes made his Hibs debut against his former club Falkirk, and then credited Hughes as the main reason he decided to sign for Hibs. He scored his first goals for Hibs in a 3–0 win at home to St Johnstone on 19 September. At the same time, Stokes made newspaper headlines for a nightclub altercation, which prompted John Hughes to discipline him and to say that he felt "let down" by Stokes. In December, however, Stokes scored five goals in three games, which helped to extend Hibs' unbeaten run in the SPL to 12 games. On 27 December 2009, Stokes scored the fastest goal in Scottish Premier League history, after just 12.4 seconds against Rangers. It broke the previous record of 17 seconds set by Saulius Mikoliūnas in a match between Hearts and St Mirren on 2 December 2006. Stokes' goal was the only highlight for Hibs, however, as they lost 4–1 to the league leaders. His good run of form was rewarded with the SPL young player of the month award for December 2009. Stokes continued to score on a prolific basis throughout the 2009–10 season, although John Hughes expressed a desire to improve his all-round game. Stokes won the goal of the season award from the SPL for a goal against Rangers in November 2009.
At the start of the following season, Stokes acknowledged the need to improve other aspects of his play. He was then linked with a move to Celtic, with their manager Neil Lennon commenting that Stokes was "a player we like". The Scotsman reported that Hibs rejected an initial offer from Celtic, but Hibs then accepted a second offer a few days later.
On 31 August 2010, Stokes signed a four-year contract with Celtic. Stokes made his Celtic debut on 11 September 2010, in a 3–0 win against Hearts. He scored his first goal for the club in his second appearance on 19 September, the winning goal in a 2–1 victory against Kilmarnock. Stokes scored a brace in a League Cup tie, against Inverness Caledonian Thistle in a 6–0 win and another double in the quarter final against St Johnstone in a 3–2 win. On 6 November, Stokes recorded his first hat-trick for Celtic in an SPL record 9–0 victory over Aberdeen. After scoring a hat-trick, Stokes says he dedicated the goal to Celtic legend Henrik Larsson. Another former Celtic striker, Chris Sutton, highlighted the successful link up play between Stokes and teammate Gary Hooper, stating "Their link-up play is good and in that respect having both of these guys in the side is a huge positive for Celtic and it is encouraging."
After scoring a 90th-minute penalty in 1–1 draw at New Douglas Park with Hamilton on 12 January 2011, Stokes entered a rich vein of form, scoring another penalty and an over-the-shoulder volley in a 3–0 win at Easter Road against Hibernian three days later. He rounded the goalkeeper and scored the winner in a 1–0 home win against Aberdeen the following week. He scored from a free-kick and a tap-in from a good refereeing advantage in a 4–0 home thrashing of Hearts on 26 January and kept his cool from the spot and scored another penalty in a 4–1 win at Hampden Park in the semi-final of the League Cup against Aberdeen.
On 24 July 2011, Stokes scored in Celtic's first match of the 2011–12 season, a 2–0 win over Hibernian. On 15 October, Stokes scored twice in six minutes to help Celtic get a 3–3 draw against Kilmarnock. Celtic had been 3–0 down at half-time and Stokes' two goals, one a long-range shot and one a free-kick, were vital in bringing them back into he game. Manager Neil Lennon later admitted that if Celtic had lost that match he might have had to resign. The comeback was also credited by assistant Johan Mjällby as being the turning point in Celtic's season as they went from being 15 point behind Rangers to winning the league. On 3 November, Stokes scored a brace in Celtic's 3–1 win over Stade Rennes in the group stages of the Europa League. He then scored, and got an assist, in Celtic's next game, a 2–1 win over Motherwell. On 9 January, he scored a hat-trick in Celtic's 3–0 win over Third Division side Peterhead in the Fourth round of the League Cup. Before the League Cup final, Stokes said how he felt he was unlikely to start the match. Despite having a very good scoring record with 20 goals for the season, Stokes did not start and came on as a substitute with Celtic trailing 1–0. He went down in the box after a challenge late in the match. However, referee Willie Collum booked him for diving. After the match both Lennon and captain Scott Brown were critical of the referee, saying that decision cost Celtic the trophy and that it was a clear penalty. After Celtic's 2–1 defeat to Hearts in the 2011–12 Scottish Cup semi-final, Stokes was given a one-match ban for the competition following an "A5" incident at the end of the match. This was "offensive, insulting and/or abusive language and/or gestures. On 3 May, Stokes scored the only goal as Celtic beat St Johnstone 1–0.
Stokes made his first appearance of the 2012–13 season as a substitute in the Champions League qualifier against HJK Helsinki. Stokes then started the next game against Aberdeen. Stokes then picked up an injury which kept him out of action for five months until January 2013, when he returned as a sub in a league game against Dundee United. In December 2012, Stokes was disciplined by Celtic after he had attended a benefit event for Alan Ryan, a deceased member of the Real Irish Republican Army. Stokes scored his first goal of the 2012–13 season against Kilmarnock on 30 January, and scored twice against Dundee United two weeks later. Stokes provided both assists for Gary Hooper's two goals in the first half of the 2013 Scottish Cup Final, against former club Hibs. He also received the man of the match award as Celtic ran out 3–0 winners.
Stokes scored his 50th goal for Celtic with a late free kick to beat Dundee United on 31 August 2013; Dundee United manager Jackie McNamara complained afterwards that Stokes had moved the ball back from its correct position to make it easier for him to strike it over the wall. He signed a new three-year contract with Celtic in October, stating "I’m absolutely delighted and I’m just looking forward to the next few seasons." On 5 January 2014, Stokes passed another milestone when he scored his 100th competitive career goal, scoring Celtic's second goal in a 4–0 win away at St Mirren. Stokes, however, had a relatively poor season up that point. In 30 appearances for Celtic he had scored only seven goals. However, the arrival of Leigh Griffiths during the January transfer window saw an improvement in Stokes' form and goal ratio, with the pair forming an impressive partnership up front. Stokes was sent off against Motherwell on 18 January for a late tackle on Keith Lasley, but on his return from suspension scored seven goals in nine games, including a hat-trick against St Johnstone, to double his tally for the season. Stokes helped Celtic clinch the league title on 26 March, scoring twice in a 5–1 win away at Partick Thistle, the first of which was his 100th goal in Scottish football and the second of which was a superb volley from 12 yards into the top corner of the goal. Stokes scored another hat-trick on 27 April in a home league match against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and also provided an assist for Leigh Griffiths in a 6–0 win. A week later, Stokes scored his 20th goal of the season in a home league 5–2 win over Aberdeen.
Stokes scored a goal in each of Celtic's first two league games of the season, 3–0 and 6–1 wins over St Johnstone and Dundee United respectively. However over the course of the season Stokes scored fewer goals than in previous seasons, mainly due to new manager Ronny Deila fielding him in a wide left role as opposed to his more recognised position as a striker. Stokes' form at this time was often unimpressive, drawing criticism from supporters, and he was also disciplined by the club after he returned to Celtic late from a trip to his home city of Dublin. Stokes continued to feature on the left wing for Celtic though, and it was from his cross that Kris Commons scored the opening goal on 15 March 2015 in Celtic's 2–0 win over Dundee United in the League Cup Final. He commented after the final, "I do need to show that I can still bring something to the team and I thought I did that today. I felt fresher and sharper. I thought I contributed." A few days later, Stokes provided the assist for Jason Denayer's opening goal in a 4–0 win over Dundee United in a Scottish Cup quarter-final replay at Parkhead. However, Stokes was sent off later in the same game for elbowing United's Paul Paton.
In the week leading up to Celtic's opening league match of the season on 1 August 2015, Stokes was told by Celtic manager Ronny Deila that he was no longer part of his long-term plans for the side. By October he had made only two first team appearances, and in most games failed to even make the substitutes bench, with Deila again highlighting issues with his discipline. On failing to again even make the substitutes bench for a league match away at Inverness on 29 November, Stokes expressed his frustration in posts made on Twitter. These tweets resulted in Celtic suspending Stokes for two weeks, with manager Ronny Deila describing him as having been "disrespectful". The transfer window in January 2016 saw Stokes linked with loan moves to Hibernian and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, having not taken part in a first team game since 22 August 2015.
On 15 January 2016, it was reported that Stokes had agreed to join Hibernian on loan for the rest of the season. He scored a late goal on his return to Hibs in a 3–1 win over St Mirren. At the end of the season, Stokes wrote himself into Hibernian folklore by scoring two goals in the 2016 Scottish Cup Final and being named man-of-the-match as Hibs won 3–2 against Rangers, their first win in the competition in 114 years.
On 17 June 2016, Stokes signed for Blackburn Rovers on a three-year deal. He scored on his Blackburn debut in a 4–1 loss to Norwich City on 6 August 2016 and followed it up with two goals in the EFL Cup First Round against Mansfield Town. In July 2017, Blackburn and Stokes agreed to terminate their contract.
Stokes signed a two-year contract with Hibernian in August 2017. He scored a double in his first start for the club against Ayr United in the Scottish League Cup on 8 August 2017.
Stokes played for the Republic of Ireland at youth international levels, earning promotion to the under-21 team in August 2006.
Stokes earned his first full cap for the Republic of Ireland national football team in their 2–1 win away to San Marino on 7 February 2007, coming on as a substitute. He earned three full caps in 2007, but was not selected during 2008 or 2009 as he fell out of favour at Sunderland. His form with Hibernian earned him a recall in May 2010. Stokes scored the only goal of the game in a practice match against an Ireland under-23 side.
At the start of the 2010–11 season, Stokes was included in the under-21 team to play Estonia, along with other senior fringe players. Stokes scored two goals and set up two others in a 5–0 win. Stokes and Cillian Sheridan were then added to the senior squad for their game against Argentina the next day.
In May 2011, Stokes withdrew from the Ireland squad for the 2011 Nations Cup due to tiredness. Manager Giovanni Trapattoni expressed his disappointment in Stokes and said he felt a footballer should only withdraw from a national squad if they were, "in hospital or dead". However, he also stated that he would still consider Stokes for future selection. In February 2012 Stokes said that he felt it was unlikely he would be picked for Ireland's squad for the 2012 European Championships. Despite Stokes' good scoring record for Celtic, he said that he thought manager Trapattoni was still not picking him due to his withdrawal from the squad the previous year.
Stokes was re-called to the Ireland squad in October 2013 following the departure of Trapattoni, by interim manager Noel King. He won his fifth cap in a 0–3 defeat away in Germany, a result which ended the Irish hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, and also played four days later in a home 3–1 win over Kazakhstan. Stokes won a further two caps during November 2013 in friendly internationals against Latvia and Poland. Stokes has yet to score at full international level for Ireland.
On 8 June 2013, Stokes attacked and head-butted car park attendant and part-time Elvis Presley impersonator Anthony Bradley, in Buck Whaleys nightclub in Dublin. Stokes subsequently agreed to pay Bradley 30,000 euro for breaking his nose and two of his teeth, in what was later described in court as a "nasty, cowardly attack". Bradley subsequently sued Stokes in the High Court in Dublin, having paid 13,500 euro over three-and-a-half years in medical expenses, stopped working due to physical and psychological effects; he was subsequently diagnosed with a degenerative spinal condition. At the trial Stokes pleaded guilty to assault, and was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for two years. Bradley was awarded a sum of Eur250,000 by the judge, made up of: 150,000 euro in general damages; 50,000 euro in aggravated damages; and 32,000 euro for medical expenses.As of 21:05, 23 September 2017 (UTC)
As of 20 November 2014
Football League Championship: 2006–07
Scottish Premiership: 2011–12, 2012–13, 2013–14, 2014–15
Scottish Cup: 2010–11, 2012–13
Scottish League Cup: 2014–15
Scottish Cup: 2015–16
Scottish Premier League Young Player of the Month (3): October 2006, November 2006, December 2009
Clydesdale Bank Premier League Goal of the Season (1): 2009–10 vs. Rangers