Leigh Griffiths: Celtic will hope penny has dropped in final, final chance as Hibs and Aberdeen miss out

A striker who does not tend to pass up many chances on the pitch, Leigh Griffiths has been more wayward when it comes to capitalising on the opportunities gifted him by successive managers keen to benefit from his eye for goal in recent years.

Leigh Griffiths has been given a new one-year deal at Celtic.
Leigh Griffiths has been given a new one-year deal at Celtic.

Since that 40-goal season under Ronny Deila back 2015/16, Brendan Rogers, Neil Lennon, Gordon Strachan, Alex McLeish and Steve Clarke have offered him a platform at club and international level, and while none of them doubted his ability to finish, there has been frustration.

Mental issues had earned him some understanding and time but, his subsequent refusal to get himself into the kind of physical shape demanded saw patience wane with Celtic and with Scotland.

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It left him on the outside looking in for much of last term. The statistics will show he made 26 appearances as the Parkhead side conceded their ten-in-a-row dream with a whimper, but the accumulated minutes on the pitch equated to just ten games over the course of the season.

That not only cost Celtic dear but it also deprived him of a place in Scotland’s Euro 2020 squad and those who watched him in his prime will rue the opportunities missed by Scotland as they looked to progress to the knock-out stages, aware that a fit and engaged Griffiths might have found the net.

But, while there is no contesting his goalscoring prowess, if he is to hit the targets new Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou will set him, he will have to find his way through a crowded box of ‘if, buts and what could have beens’ to prove he is worthy of what must surely be his final, final chance at Celtic.

We have seen him shake off pressures before, to steal in at the back post and stab home a matchwinner, to stare down a wall and still find a way of evading it as he sends a set-piece into the net.

That gallusness is what so often endears, even when the daftness and darker side of his personality grates, and few who know him as a player or a person will doubt he has the mindset needed to rise to an occasion and the personality that thrives on proving doubters wrong.

He is a born goalscorer, but he needs to realise that managers demand more. If that penny has dropped, Celtic will have a player capable of living up to John Hartson’s 25-goal prediction.

The Welshman made the bold call online, soon after the contract extension was announced. It was a bit of business that had a polarising effect, with many Hoops fans of the opinion that bridges had already been burned.

The seven-goal return last season was deemed insulting, but contextualised by minutes played, it wasn’t actually as poor a return as many believed.

Which is why the likes of boyhood heroes Hibs and Aberdeen were waiting in the wings, hoping Celtic would not take up the one-year extension on his contract, rendering the flawed individual a free agent and ripe for the picking.

In a league where places and trophies are often settled by the smallest margins, they recognise the worth of a prolific scorer. So too, it seems, does Postecoglou. He just needs to hope he can unearth him.

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