Patryk Klimala admits he felt just a little sheepish about stealing a goal from Leigh Griffiths as Celtic continued their pre-season preparations with victory over Hibs on Monday.
But the Polish under-21 international will have no reservations about trying to move ahead of Griffiths in the pecking order of front men at the Scottish champions as they get ready to start their quest for a record-breaking tenth consecutive league title.
Klimala is hardly unique among strikers in grabbing any opportunity which presents itself to add to his goal tally, so is certainly under no obligation to apologise for the needless touch right on the goal line which helped Griffiths’ already netbound dink over Hibs goalkeeper Kevin Dabrowski on its way.
But in the circumstances of Griffiths’ latest return to action after his unsatisfactory post-lockdown physical condition had caused him to be left out of the first-team squad by angry Celtic manager Neil Lennon, it was a moment of ruthless opportunism by Klimala which hinted at the strength of his desire to take full advantage of the Scotland international’s situation.
Klimala scored again when he headed home after a Griffiths corner in Celtic’s 3-1 win and he is hopeful he has done enough to stake a claim for inclusion in Sunday’s Premiership opener against Hamilton Accies at Parkhead.
“The first goal I scored against Hibs was really a Leigh Griffiths goal,” said Klimala. “I only touched the ball before it crossed the line. But the second one that I scored was mine. I worked hard on the pitch to get the goal and I was happy with it.
“I enjoyed playing alongside Leigh. I am working hard and I am feeling in good shape. The last decisions of who plays in the [competitive] games will be down to the manager, that’s it.”
Signed from Jagiellonia Białystok in January, Klimala was a peripheral figure at Celtic in the final months of the curtailed 2019-20 season. He made only three substitute appearances in the league, his solitary start coming in a Scottish Cup tie at Clyde.
Early impressions suggested he appeared to lack the physicality necessary for Scottish football but he has returned after lockdown having bulked up considerably as he prepares for the rigours of the challenges ahead.
In the absence of Griffiths, Klimala scored his first goal in Celtic colours in their 1-1 draw against Nice two weeks ago and has now followed up with the double against Hibs.
“I worked really hard during the break from football,” he added. “I had two sessions a day plus I also did an English lesson for two hours.
“I was tired when we started back the pre-season, but now I feel in good shape. My focus was not on going back [to Poland] during the quarantine. I wanted to remain here and do hard work because I didn’t have a pre-season during the winter break.
“I didn’t feel that good, but everything has now come back to normal for me. It was important for me to have a routine.”
While Klimala and Griffiths scrap it out for the status of second striker at Celtic, Odsonne Edouard remains the main man for Lennon as the new season dawns. Klimala is determined to benefit from working alongside the French striker.
“I have learned a lot of things from Odsonne during this pre-season,” added Klimala. “I think it was really good for me and now I can try to use some of these things on the pitch.
“Sometimes we talk about it, but really I just watch how he plays on the pitch. Sometimes, yes, I can just watch him and learn some things, but we are different players.
“Odsonne plays the game differently from me, but there are many things that I like that he does and I can learn from him.”
After two closed-door friendlies at Celtic Park, that environment will face Lennon’s players in a competitive fixture for the first time against Hamilton on Sunday. Klimala hopes supporters will return sooner rather than later but says Celtic must overcome any obstacle which comes their way in such a momentous season.
“Hopefully in the next games, we will be able to play with fans,” he added. “I have never experienced the situation and playing in a stadium without fans, but it is what it is. That’s it. Football is about being professional and we have to be focused and have a good mentality on what we have to do all of the time. It doesn’t matter whether we have fans or we do not have fans when it comes to this. Of course it would be better to play the games with the supporters, but if we have to play without them during the games, we will do this.
“I understand how big the season is for the club, but I don’t really think about it because it can bring pressure and we don’t need to have that because we already know how big this club is and how many great players are with us in the changing room. It doesn’t matter what time it is for Celtic. There’s always pressure to win, that is normal.”
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