LEIGH GRIFFITHS celebrates his thirtieth birthday today and he should realise this landmark occasion MUSTmark a turning point in his career.
The Scotland international striker has to shed his ‘Jack The Lad’ image and play his part in Celtic’s quest for an unprecedented and phenomenal 10 titles in a row.
Griffiths, of course, was left at home as the champions embarked upon their three-game tour of France as they prepared for what is hoped to be another historic campaign.
As his team-mates took on Nice, Lyon and Paris-Saint Germain, the prolific hitman remained at home to train on his own at Lennoxtown after returning from the four-month lockdown overweight which incurred the wrath of manager Neil Lennon who axed him from the trip.
SIGN OF THE TIMES…Leigh Griffiths celebrates one of his three goals in the 5-0 win over St Mirren in March.
Griffiths has to grow up now and play a role alongside Odsonne Edouard, Patryk Klimala and £5million new Bhoy Albian Ajeti in a season that will see the club’s playing resources stretched as never before as they face a fixture pile-up which wasn’t helped by Boli Bolingoli’s inexplicable actions on his secret Spanish trip that forced league games against St Mirren and Aberdeen to be cancelled.
Author Alex Gordon, whose fifteenth Celtic book, ‘Fifty Flags Plus One’, is due to be published soon, recalls a conversation with Hoops legend Davie Hay when he first heard the name Leigh Griffiths.
Alex said: “It was just before Christmas in December 2006 and I was having a bite to eat with Davie who was the Livingston boss at the time.
“We were talking about all the usual things and then Davie mentioned a 16-year-old he had on his staff who ‘had a chance’. His name was Leigh Griffiths.
“I reckon my old mate can spot a player when he sees one, so I listened to what he had to say. ‘He’ll score goals,’ predicted Davie. ‘No doubt about that. He strikes a sweet ball and he’s not afraid to have a go from any range or angle. He’s got that little bit of arrogance, too, which is okay if you have the ability to back it up. The lad has the talent to step up a level.’
“I asked Davie: ‘How far?’
“He answered: “The ball is at his feet. He can go far if he continues to make progress at this rate and keeps his head and doesn’t get carried away. He’s got fair hair and I’ve heard some folk talking about him being ‘the new Kenny Dalglish’.”
Davie smiled: ‘If only! I don’t think he will get to where Kenny reached, but he can score goals on a regular basis, I’m convinced of that.”
PERTHQUAKE…Greg Taylor celebrates with Leigh Griffiths after his strike in the 3-0 win over St Johnstone in January.
On December 30, all of 14 years ago, the fresh-faced frontman made his debut for Livi when he came on as a substitute with eight minutes to go as the side lost 3-1 to Airdrie. Hardly the most auspicious of starts for the ‘new’ Dalglish.
However, Griffiths did score 26 goals in 55 appearances for the West Lothian outfit before Dundee paid £125,000 to take him to Dens Park in June 2009.
He claimed 33 in 62 outings for the Tayside club before Mick McCarthy took him to Wolves in a deal believed to be in the £150,000 region. The frontman continued to hit the net and collected 31 in 93 games for the Midlands outfit before his loan switch to his boyhood favourites Hibs.
It was at Easter Road, Edinburgh-born Griffiths caught the eye of Lennon and, after scoring a phenomenal 39 goals in 78 appearances for the Leith outfit, the Irishman paid £1million to take him to the champion in January 2014.
Griffiths’ progress, of course, has been interrupted in Glasgow through well-publicised “personal issues”, but he still fired in eight after the turn of the year as he dovetailed with Edouard in the firing line.
After 115 goals in 231 games for Celtic, the striker, who has also thumped in four in 19 international outings, has to prove himself all over again.
On his 30th birthday, Griffiths realises the day of reckoning for his career in the east end of Glasgow has now dawned.
As Davie Hay said 14 years ago, “The ball is at his feet”.