LEIGH GRIFFITHS took part in the post-match Treble Treble celebrations on the pitch at Hampden last month but looked rather subdued. The Celtic striker was interviewed standing in front of the Celtic support and stated that he’d be back in business as a goalscorer from the start of pre-season.
Celtic TV then did an interview with the striker in an otherwise deserted Lennoxtown gym. For Griffiths the work goes on as he prepares to return to his job of playing for and scoring goals in a Celtic shirt.
Yesterday Neil Lennon talked about the player that he signed for Celtic from Wolves and reckoned that a return to action for Griff would be like bringing in a £6million striker. He also pointed out that Celtic had stated by the player brilliantly and that it was now pay back time.
“We could have a £6m striker on our hands for nothing,” The Celtic manager said yesterday to the media, as reported in Scotsman. “It will be like a new signing. Leigh has missed a lot of football in the last 18 months and he’ll need to knuckle down, but he’ll have our full support.
“He’ll need to get up to speed with his conditioning. He’s working hard and we’ll see where he is football-wise.
“He’s had the club’s full support throughout this period, so it’s payback time for Leigh.”
Griffiths has bagged 104 goals for Celtic in his 202 appearances and before his off-field problems meant he had to drop out of the front line of playing for Celtic, he had set himself a personal target of reaching 200 goals for Celtic. He signed a new contract last season that keeps him at Celtic until 2022 so knowing Griffiths that target will not have been forgotten.
“Leigh is good at what he does. He scores goals and we want to see him back doing what he does best,” Lenny said. Many got the impression that Brendan Rodgers never quite ‘got’ Leigh Griffiths. Right from the off he talked about Leigh’s 40 goal season for Ronny Deila as being some kind of negative – a weakness that Celtic had relied on one man for all the goals in the season before he arrived.
Leigh Griffiths was the Celtic player who was at Celtic Park the day Rodgers arrived to be welcomed by 13,000 supporters, but looking back on the Irishman’s 33 months in charge of Celtic, Leigh Griffiths at no stage was his favourite son. You get the feeling that this will change now that Neil Lennon is back.
Lenny also spoke about the importance of the young players coming through at the club and what they add to the mix at Celtic. Mikey Johnston started in the Scottish Cup Final, Ewan Henderson has broken into the side this year and has done well when called upon and Karamoko Dembele lit up Celtic Park in the second half on Trophy Day. All three are in Lenny’s thoughts for the season ahead.
“I am excited about them. Dembele lit the place up the other week. He is very important to the club, as are the likes of Henderson. Michael Johnston played in the cup final and that will be a huge shot in the arm for him. We think he’s good enough.
“It’s important for me as a manager to bring players through from the academy,” Lenny said.
“It’s vital we develop our own. We have fantastic examples and role models in players like Kieran Tierney and Callum McGregor.
“We need new ones coming through and I believe some of them will be good enough to do that. It’s not easy. They know the requirements and the demands we will ask of them.”
At the moment The Celtic manager is busy trying to bring in his transfer targets – and the names on the list in early June will be significantly different from a few months back. Lennon wants his new recruits in as soon as possible and sees a big advantage in getting his business done early in the window rather than waiting to the last few days in August.
“We start pre-season training on 17 June but we will give all the international players extra time off. It may be a case of players coming back in bits and pieces but that’s the reality of it and we understand that.
“There are far more games and, with the season we’ve just had, guys finished on 25 May with us and then are going away with their countries. They could then be playing Champions League qualifiers in early July.
“It’s hugely difficult but if you can get new players in early enough, you can subsidise that. That’s what we are looking to do at the minute.”