LEIGH Griffiths got a goal closer to his target for the season of 30 yesterday, then insisted he wanted to play in Hibs’ remaining two games this week.
Manager Pat Fenlon has rested several players on occasion as the build-up to the Scottish Cup final continues, and some Hibs fans had urged him to give the club’s most valuable player a break before the game against Celtic on Sunday week.
But Griffiths, whose tally now stands at 28 after his strike in his team’s 2-1 win against Hearts at Tynecastle yesterday, wants to be given every opportunity of becoming the first Hibs player for 40 years to score 30 goals in a season. “I wanted to be at that 30-goal mark, and I’m not going to do that if I’m rested,” the striker told match broadcasters ESPN when asked if there had been a case for sitting out the game in light of the impending cup final against Celtic.
Griffiths hopes to play on Wednesday in the rescheduled game at Kilmarnock, then at home to Dundee on Saturday.
Griffiths added that he had had talks with Wolves about his future – his parent club have a one-year option on his contract – but explained he did not want to be distracted by talk of next season while this one was still very much alive. “I have spoken [to Wolves] but I just want to concentrate on this season. I’ve said before I’d love to stay at the club [Hibs].”
Fenlon suggested that the position would only become clearer once Wolves had appointed a successor to Dean Saunders, who was sacked last week after the club were relegated to League One. “I think until Wolves get a manager it probably won’t be resolved,” the manager said.
“If he stays, brilliant. If he goes, then we need to find someone to replace him, which will be very, very difficult.
“He’s matured as a footballer and as a person.
“We know that he can finish, we know he can score fabulous goals and tap-ins. But, as a centre-forward, you’ve got to be able to play the game; link the play, bring others into the game and hold the ball up. He’s improving in that all the time and that’s a maturity as well.”
Having now gone five games this season without losing to Hearts, Hibs are steadily improving as a whole, according to Fenlon, who suggested the better results in the derby were partial recompense to the club’s fans after their traumatic 5-1 defeat by Hearts in last year’s final. “They’ve been taking a lot of flak and I’ve been to blame for that from the cup final last year. So it’s good to get them enjoying themselves.
“Losing the cup final was hard to take, and everybody has had to take flak, but that happens in football. We’ve had a little bit of payback this year. The real payback would be beating Celtic in the final.
“We’ve been competitive in all the derbies [this season]. We’ve won two – one in the cup, now this one, the first in the league for a while. It’s progress, a step on the ladder, and that’s all it is, I suppose. We’re not getting too carried away.
“We’ve got two more games to go, then a massive cup final. We’ll take great confidence out of this.”
The manager admitted that he now had a few doubts about his team selection for the final, thanks to the fine performances of some of his younger players. And he also has injury doubts about his three defenders who sat out yesterday’s game. Captain James McPake and left-back Ryan McGivern are unsure of being passed fit to play against Kilmarnock, while right-back Tim Clancy is struggling to regain fitness in time for the final.