Neil Lennon believes Leigh Griffiths’ desire to join the Scottish champions is a significant factor in Celtic’s favour as they prepare to make a second bid for the Wolverhampton Wanderers’ striker.
The Parkhead manager is “hopeful” that a deal can be done before Friday’s signing deadline after an initial bid for Griffiths was rejected yesterday.
Lennon was happy to discuss the former Hibernian player after Wolves confirmed they had knocked back a bid from Celtic for Griffiths, who the English club are believed to value at around £1 million. “That’s the difficulty – we have not been given a price,” said Lennon. “There will have to be a cut off point at some stage.”
The Celtic manager warned that he could look elsewhere if the club do not get a “definitive answer” in the next two days, leaving them with room to manoeuvre before the window shuts on Friday.
“You are never confident,” he added. “Wolves are tough negotiators. We have known in the past when we tried to get Kevin Doyle last year. So I would not say confident. But I am hopeful.”
Lennon believes Griffiths would “jump at the chance of coming to play here”. However, Celtic will need to significantly improve their original offer, believed to have been in the region of £500,000.
Although he was on loan at Hibernian for a season and a half, Griffiths has not been transferred since he left Dundee for £150,000 in early 2011.
Lennon admits he is a long-time admirer of Griffiths, who he believes can develop into a Champions League standard player in the same way as Gary Hooper and Scott McDonald graduated to this level in the past.
“At 23 he is the right age for us and there is plenty of scope in him as well to come and do better here,” he said. “Maybe not yet. That is up to us to try and turn him into that.
“Scott McDonald and Gary Hooper went on to play at that level because they got the confidence here. They scored goals and got the elevation into the Champions League. They believed they could play at that level.”
“I think he can do a job for Celtic,” he added. “And speaking to a lot of people in the game whose opinion I trust, they are in agreement as well. He is not a £10 million player. But I think he can turn into a very, very good acquisition for us and I do think he will bring goals to the club.
“I thought he was quite an exciting player to watch last year. When you have got it you don’t lose it, and we just have to nurture him on and I think he will get better.”
The manager stressed he was unconcerned about the player’s reputation for attracting trouble. Still only in his early twenties, Griffiths has proved a
controversial figure and was disciplined on three occasions while with Hibs for making gestures to the fans. He revealed in the summer that internet abuse targeting his four children drove him to the brink of suicide. Lennon commented that all players have baggage off the field – it was just a case of managing him properly.
“I think he has matured into a very good player,” Lennon said. “I know he has baggage off the field but we all did. You can manage that. If he comes here then he is here for the football and not the controversy. We will cross that bridge when we come to it. “There have been a few I have come across over the years. You just have to treat every individual on their own merits. It is not a concern, not at all.
“If you look at him being back in Edinburgh last year then he thrived. He didn’t seem to have a problem on the pitch. His goal record for a team that struggled was very impressive. His overall performances were very good.”
Griffiths’ displays for Hibs last season, when he scored 28 goals, persuaded Wolves to bring him back to the club, where he signed a new two-year deal in August. However, having started the season in impressive scoring form, he has started only two of Wolves’ previous six games and was an unused substitute in the 3-1 win over Bristol City on Saturday. This was the first time this season that manager Kenny Jackett has not used him during a league game.
Lennon commented that it was “up to his manager” to explain why he has fallen out of favour in recent weeks as Wolves chase promotion back to the Championship. Jackett yesterday said that he understood why Celtic were interested in the player, who is in the Wolves’ squad to face Oldham Athletic tonight: “There must be a value in bringing in a Scottish lad and a Scottish international, mustn’t there?”
He added that Celtic’s first bid was turned down “straightaway” by Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey.
Meanwhile, Lennon was quick to dismiss reports that Everton are preparing to make a bid for left-back Emilio Izaguirre following the horrific broken leg sustained by the Goodison Park club’s Bryan Oviedo against Stevenage on Saturday.
The Celtic manager was speaking at an event to announce a £45,000 investment by the Ireland Fund of Great Britain for a three-year period to deliver community projects in conjunction with the Parkhead club and North Lanarkshire Leisure. He saluted the way Izaguirre has recovered his poise and form since his own injury torment when he broke his ankle against Aberdeen in 2011.
“You are obviously concerned he might not get back to his previous level when you have an injury like that, psychologically as much as anything else,” he said.
“But really in the Champions League last year and this year he really put his mind to it and his qualities shone through, and he has been playing well domestically as well. So if there is interest I am not surprised. But is he for sale? No.
“I wouldn’t sell him anyway,” Lennon added. “I only have one left-back!”