CELTIC legend John Hughes is ready to welcome Leigh Griffiths to the Celtic Century Club.
But the seventh-highest goalscorer in the Hoops history fears the Scotland international may have to wait until after tomorrow before he adds to his 94 strikes for the Parkhead men.
Hughes – the original Yogi who claimed 188 goals for the Bhoys – reckons Moussa Dembele will get the nod ahead of Griffiths to start the Betfred League Cup Final against Motherwell.
The former fans’ favourite, now 74, said to CQN: “Obviously, it’s a very difficult decision for Brendan Rodgers, but he has shown he is not afraid to take responsibility when it comes to these sort of choices.
“I admire both players, although, of course, they are completely different types of forwards.
“Dembele is excellent at holding up the ball and bringing team-mates into the game.
“Griffiths, on the other hand, is a lot more direct and uses his pace to the best advantage.
“Fortunately, one thing both have in common is that they can score all sorts of goals. Griffths’ winning goal against Ross County
last week from the free-kick was exquisite.
“That goal nudged him to within six goals of becoming a Celtic Centurian and I have no doubt he has the ability to claim that honour before the turn of the year.
“I believe only 28 players have achieved or bettered that figure in the club’s 130-year history.
Having said that, though, I still think Rodgers will go with the Frenchman against Motherwell at the national stadium.
“The opposition have talked up the fact they adopt a physical approach to the game and, yes, it is is a contact sport.
“Sometimes, though, you get the impression when players from other teams are making these points there is an element of intimidation behind in their words.
“I doubt if that would worry either Moussa or Leigh who are well capapble of looking after themselves.
“But if you are looking at the physicality of this Fir Park side, then I would go with Dembele to start the game, at least.
“Of course, Rodgers could field both as a double spearhead, but he has done that only sparingly in the past.
“The manager’s obvious preference is to go with one man leading the attack and, after 64 successive domestic games without defeat, it’s hard to argue against his philosophy.
“There is always the possibility the players aren’t completely happy with a partner alongside them. Maybe they prefer to be a solo act, I don’t know.
“Jock Stein had a lot of success with three attackers in the striking role and had plenty to work with in a squad that contained the likes of Bobby Lennox, Stevie Chalmers, Joe McBride, Willie Wallace and myself.
“There were goals throughout that team and left-back Tommy Gemmell was always good for double figures by the end of a campaign.
“Midfielder Bobby Murdoch, too, would be up there or thereabouts as would Wee Jinky Johnstone.
“Brendan has created something similar with his team. Dembele and Griffiths will get their share, but Scott Sinclair chipped in with 25 goals last season which was a phenomenal feat.
“Stuart Armstrong and James Forrest pose a threat, too, but I doubt if either Dedryck Boyata or Jozo Simunovic will ever give the side the aerial menace of Billy McNeill when it comes to deadball situations.”
Hughes added: “I just can’t see Celtic failing to win the trophy tomorrow.
“Motherwell will make it difficult and it will undoubtedly be a hard-fought encounter and you have to hope referee Craig Thomson is at the top of his game, too.
“No-one wants to see red cards in showpiece games, but he will have to clamp down quickly if things begin to get a bit too towsy.
“We all want to be treated to a match befitting the occasion and, once my old club get into their stride, I can’t see them being stopped.
“They’ll be hurting after the defeat in Paris in midweek and they will want normal service resumed as swiftly as possible.”
We have signed copies of Yogi Bare The John Hughes biography available at CQNBookstore.com
LISBON LION Jim Craig is the very special guest on the new CQN Podcast – out now!
Jim releases his new book, Right Back to 67, The Lisbon Lion Diary next week and we are pretty confident that this will be regarded as one of the classic Celtic books of all time.
There has been so much written about 1967 in some very fine books to-date but nothing like this. Jim kept a diary of his time at Celtic and in Right Back to 67 he is able to provide the authentic, inside story. It really is too good to miss.
You can order the book now from CQNBookstore.com and you will receive a signed copy. You can also add a personal dedication which is ideal for a Christmas gift. Simply email email@example.com with your dedication after you have ordered and Jim will sort this for you next week.
Jim is on fine form in the Podcast too, you’ll love it.
A Celtic State of Mind presents its 25th instalment of insightful discussion around the culture of Celtic Football Club, the city of Glasgow, and fans of the reigning invincible Scottish champions.
Jim Craig joined Paul John Dykes and Kevin Graham in the Tolbooth Studios in Stirling to discuss the Lisbon Lions’ 50th anniversary celebrations in a year which also saw Celtic winning an invincible treble, a prestigious award from FIFA naming their fans as the best in the world, and even a BAFTA!
In this emotional interview, Jim reminisces about Jock Stein, Billy McNeill, Neilly Mochan, Bertie Auld, Tommy Gemmell, Joe McBride and George Connelly.
He also discusses his latest book, his magnificent Lisbon Lion Diary: Right Back to ’67. This memoir is a real fly-on-the-wall recollection of events from 50 years ago, brought to life by Jim Craig’s intelligent and humorous brand of storytelling. Order HERE.
The CQN Podcast has gone from strength-to-strength over the last few months, and there are many more guests lined up in the months ahead from the world of sport, music, film, art, broadcasting, literature and politics.
Connect with A Celtic State of Mind @PaulDykes, @anorthernprose and @CQNMagazine and subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or through your podcast player.
ORDER YOUR SIGNED COPY OF JIM CRAIG – RIGHT BACK TO 67, A LISBON LION DIARY TODAY!