The Best Goalscorer In The League – Do Some Players Merit More Leeway?

There’s no doubt that fitness is important in the modern game. Sports science has transformed the way that professional footballers eat, train and sleep. The purpose of this committment to fitness is obviously to enhance performances on the field and with that in mind, I wonder is too much emphasis put on this over footballing ability at times? For me there has to be a balance.

Fitness, professionalism and ability are all important. In an ideal world, players will have all three in abundance. Mavericks don’t operate in an ideal world though and that’s where the quirks of man management come in.

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Once upon a time, Jinky would have been labelled a liability. A Celtic winger should not be out getting drunk and getting rescued from a rowing boat out at sea. Dixie Deans would have been viewed similarly, and many clubs had their own players of this type – none more so than Manchester United with George Best.

Leigh Griffiths is obviously not in the same category as Jinky and Best, but he is a modern day Celtic great in my opinion. His goalscoring record is absolutely outstanding, especially considering that many appearances have come from the bench. If memory serves me right, he averages somewhere in the region of 0.86 goals for every game that he starts! Phenomenal stuff.

It’s well documented that his fitness has been lacking, when he came back to pre-season overweight. In doing so, his professionalism is questionable and the club were also annoyed at his usage of social media – particularly his TikTok videos. For me, I think some fans overstated this.

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I don’t care what he does on TikTok if he scores goals. Similarly, if he hasn’t got himself in the right condition then that’s not okay, but as long as he produces the goods on the pitch then does it matter that much?

I think Leigh is sharp enough to play, even for an hour. He has pace, excellent movement and deadly finishing. If he can’t last a game then we get that for an hour or so. His presence in a front two also brings out the best in Edouard.

That’s not to say that the club should tolerate his behaviour or not seek to get him as fit as possible. That can only help. But in terms of punishing him and leaving him out, it can be a case of cutting off the nose to spite the face.

Fitness, professionalism and footballing ability go hand in hand. Yet there’s a balance. There’s no point being super fit, if you’re no good at football. Bleep tests don’t score goals. Look at the performances of some in recent weeks, particularly the last few performances by Edouard, who is supposedly fit. Eddy is a world class player, but he hasn’t put himself about much in the last few games. I’d argue that Griffiths would do a better job and pose a bigger threat with his enthusiasm, movement and speed. If not at top speed, he should surely be able to give us a good bit of time as a dominant team in the Scottish Premiership.

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I rarely use social media in the middle of a game, but yesterday I put this message out:

Presumably Lennon saw this and I got my wish a few minutes later.

Griffiths came on and immediately won a corner. He then swung a dangerous delivery into Duffy. Moments later he almost scored a header, then he did find the back of the net in the 89th minute. We probably had more play in the St Johnstone box during those last 15 minutes than in the rest of the game.

In conclusion, I think clubs should strive for the best standards. However, it’s not always black and white like that. There are characters and those with talent tend to be the maverick personalities. The art of management is to give certain players different boundaries to get the best out of them. It’s something that has happened for years and ultimately the reason for fitness programmes and social media bans is all to get the best on the pitch. If players are anomalies in that they continuously produce the goods on the park, despite off field events, then does it matter? Others can’t do it, most in fact, but Griffiths can and does. He is the best goalscorer in Scotland.

Liam Kelly

About Author

Hailing from an Irish background, I grew up in Bournemouth with the good fortune to begin watching Celtic as a young child during the Martin O'Neill era. Still living on the south coast, I have a season ticket at Paradise and also travel to European away matches when possible. At the age of 19, I published my first Celtic book (Our Stories & Our Songs: The Celtic Support). Then, last year, I published my second book (Take Me To Your Paradise: A History Of Celtic-Related Incidents & Events), which is sold in Waterstones and official Celtic FC stores.

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