Leigh Griffiths on 'night and day' fitness journey, Celtic testimonial hope and 'jealous' critics
Leigh Griffiths has opened up on reviving a Celtic career many considered would be fatally damaged by a self-confessed lack of “professionalism” over the coronavirus lockdown.
The 30-year-old has produced four goals in his past eight outings, and hopes he can bring up a decade at Celtic Park to earn a testimonial with the club he joined from Wolves seven years ago this month.
Griffiths is in line to start his fifth straight league game when Hibs are faced - a sequence he has bettered only once in the past four years. For the second half of the season into which Celtic head following their controversial Dubai warm-weather training camp - from which a positive Covid-19 among the squad has emerged - he has been returned to first choice striker...only six months on from when his future even as a fourth-ranked forward at the club was questioned.
The turn of events has been accompanied by Griffiths breaking into the club’s all-time top 20 scorers with 121 goals and becoming the joint-15th most decorated player. A far cry from his being excoriated by Neil Lennon for failing to maintain expected conditioning and weight across the pandemic shut down between March and July.
“Night and day” is how Griffiths compares his fitness now and then. “I think the manager would say that as well,” he said. ‘It was just about getting that consistent run of games. I let myself down. I let everybody down. But I’m trying to repay them bit by bit by helping the team, scoring goals and getting the team three points. I had to take a long head look at myself because I was a disgrace when I came back. Well, when I say a disgrace, I wasn’t because when I left in March and came back I was only 2.5kg over what I was before but I wasn’t as fit as I should have been. That’s down to me and my professionalism. I take that on the chin. I’ve been slaughtered for that publicly and in-house.
“I took it on the chin, went away and worked extremely hard. Then I had a couple of injuries. But now you’ve seen since I came back that I’ve played well, tried to link up with Odsonne [Edouard] as much as I could and we’re winning games, albeit the Rangers game was a bit disappointing.
“I’m not going to get carried away [about a testimonial]. I’ve still got a lot of work to do to make sure I’m still in the manager’s plans. But long-term, that’s where you want to be – at a club like Celtic for eight, nine, 10 years, getting talked about in terms of testimonials and stuff. In my heart of hearts I knew that if I knuckled down and got myself back to where I was in January, February time, then I’d be okay. It was just about going away and working hard. I’ve been criticised for months now by ex-players and ex-managers. But the [latter] weren’t saying that when I was playing and scoring goals for them. I think a few ex-players are jealous of what I’ve achieved at Celtic so far but I’ve still got a lot of business to do, and a lot of goals to contribute.”
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