Stokes happy to be back

Tony Stokes has led an interesting life since leaving West Ham United on loan in February 2009.

The 23-year-old Academy graduate, who made his sole appearance for the Hammers in a League Cup win at Sheffield Wednesday in September 2005, swapped London for the Hungarian capital, Budapest, 15 months ago.

There, the former reserve-team captain turned out for 20-times league champions Ujpest FC, initially joining the club on loan before making his move permanent last summer.

Stokes was handed the No6 shirt and quickly became a regular starter under Scottish manager Willie McStay. However, after more than 30 appearances in league and cup, the midfielder requested to have his two-year contract terminated and return to England.

While things may not have worked out in the long-term, the Essex-born player enjoyed his time in Hungary, helping Ujpest to qualify for the UEFA Europa League, where he started both legs of the club's second qualifying round defeat by Romanian giants Steaua Bucharest.

"After I left West Ham last year, I went on loan to the Hungarian team and it went really well. Then, when it came to the end of the season, my contract had run out at West Ham and they wanted to keep me.

"They were playing in the Europa League, so that attracted me. I ended up playing in both legs against Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League last summer.

"We usually got crowds of between seven and eight thousand, but against Steaua, we got 15,000 at home and then played in front of 25,000 in the return leg in Romania. That was a great atmosphere to play in.

"For our home games, the supporters were just fantastic and the atmosphere was amazing. They would do absolutely everything to get a win."

When Stokes arrived at Ujpest, he was able to spend time with Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee and fellow English speaker Scott Malone. However, with Malone gone, life became more difficult over the past few months.

Despite missing his friends including West Ham striker Freddie Sears - and family, Stokes enjoyed his time in a country and with a club he knew nothing about just two years ago.

"It definitely made me grow up. I lived there on my own and my family and girlfriend couldn't come over that much, so I had to do everything myself. I grew up that way and it made me a better player as well - I practised all the time and really enjoyed it out there.

"The language was too hard to learn. There are about 52 letters in the alphabet so I didn't really know where to start. Luckily, the lads spoke enough English for me to get by, and we had a couple of other British players last season, which helped me to settle in."

Having returned home, Stokes was able to turn out for Tony Carr's Academy All-Stars in the Academy Director's recent Testimonial. Now actively seeking a new club, he is hoping it will not be the last time he turns out at the Boleyn Ground.

"I played regularly out in Hungary, and I had the No6 shirt, which was a boost to my confidence. They all wished me luck when I left. I'm now looking for another club in England and hopefully things will work out for me. I think I've got a lot to offer, so I just want to show what I can do at any level and take it from there."