LEIGH Griffiths last night completed his £1 million move to Celtic from Wolves and pledged to win over the club’s supporters who have questioned his suitability for the Scottish champions.
The 23-year-old signed a four-year contract after passing a medical, although the deal was not done before the 5pm SPFL registration deadline which would have allowed him to make his debut in Celtic’s Premiership fixture at home to St Mirren tomorrow.
In contrast to some previous deadline-day signings, there was no sizeable gathering of well-wishing fans outside Celtic Park to welcome Griffiths last night. But the Scotland international striker, who scored 39 goals in 78 appearances while on loan at Hibs in the previous two seasons, is determined to earn the approval of a sceptical Celtic support and vindicate the faith placed in him by manager Neil Lennon.
“Yes, I’m confident I can silence the doubters,” said Griffiths. “You saw what I did last season for Hibs when I was creating most of the chances on my own. In a team like Celtic, you are always going to get chances. Hopefully they fall at my feet and I can put them away.
“I spoke with the manager earlier and he told me what is expected of me as a Celtic player, saying you can’t do anything wrong or people will pick up on it. For me, it’s just about keeping my head down and working hard and try and prove wrong the people who say I’m not good enough.
“I also want to prove the manager is right for signing me. He’s been very positive about me in the press already this week and I just want to get out there, score goals and repay him. I want to show everybody why he brought me to the club.
“If you speak to any of the people who have played with me or been around me, then they will tell you I am not a bad lad. Yes, I have been daft in the past but when I come to training I do my work and I get on with things and then I go home and that is what you want to be doing.
“Everybody has got a past. I just want people to concentrate on what I do playing for Celtic and forget about everything else. I want to be judged on what I do on the pitch and in training.
“To come to the biggest club in Scotland is the biggest honour you can get. I was lucky enough to play for my boyhood heroes Hibs, but you can’t turn down the chance to play for a club like Celtic in the Champions League. In time, I could be the striker to score goals in the Champions League. Working with the coaching staff here will improve me. Neil Lennon says he doesn’t want to take anything away from me, he just wants me to get better as a player. Hopefully when we play in the Champions League in six months’ time, I can be that guy.”
Lennon is aware the acquisition of Griffiths has been met with less than universal acclaim by Celtic supporters. But he is confident the player will not only be a success on the pitch with his new club but will also cope with increasingly intense focus on his off-the-field conduct. “I think the reaction has been over the top,” said Lennon. “It’s more to do with his off-the-field stuff than his actual ability. Look at what he achieved last year, scoring so many goals for a struggling Hibs team. His variety of goals were fantastic, too.
“I don’t think people should judge him on his past. Just judge him on his football ability. It’s up to me to manage all the other stuff that comes with it. I see it as a challenge. I’m quite looking forward to that. He’s not a bad boy, not a bad kid at all.
“Sometimes you prefer them that way, with a wee bit of personality about them. I like the gallus players anyway. He’s certainly got a gallus nature on the pitch although I don’t think he’s ill-disciplined or anything like that when he plays.
“He knows the responsibilities involved in coming here. He’s just got to mind himself away from the park and we’ll do all we can to help him with that as well. I’ll need to speak to him about the tweeting business.
“I’ve already spoken to him about his responsibilities as a Celtic player and to be wary of things away from the park. We’ll look after him here all that we can and I don’t think he’ll have a problem adapting to the way we play. Now he’s at a big club and he’s got to get used to the
intensity of playing for Celtic and the public perception of him. He just needs to change people’s views and he can do that through his football first and foremost.
“I think he’s improved a lot. I think he’s getting stronger. He’s a really good finisher. His work ethic on the pitch is excellent. He always hits the target, left foot or right foot. He has got scope to improve, there is no question of that. The challenge for me now is to make him into a better player. Can he make the step from here to the Champions League? I think he’ll score goals here. The question is ‘can we make him better?’ I believe we can.
“I thought of trying to sign Leigh in the summer but we were waiting on the Gary Hooper scenario finishing off and at the time I don’t think Wolves were too keen on selling him. There was an opportunity now to bring him in. We’ve taken that opportunity. I think he wants to grab the opportunity here. He’s Scottish and it’s always good to have home-grown boys about the place. I think he’ll fit right in. Having spoken to him, you get a different perception of people sometimes. He seems actually quiet a quiet boy away from the pitch. Maybe he’s just putting on a show for me!”
As Griffiths signed on, time was called on the miserable Celtic career of Mohamed Bangura. The Sierra Leone international striker, signed for £2.2m in August 2011, failed to score in his 16 first-team appearances for the club. His contract, which had 18 months remaining, has been terminated. “It’s just one of those things – it didn’t work out,” said Lennon. “It’s a sore one, because we thought he had the potential to do well here. But we couldn’t get the best out of him, for one reason or another.”
Across the city, Rangers held on to Lee Wallace after rejecting two offers earlier in the week from Nottingham Forest.
Hibs manager Terry Butcher put a frustrating month behind him to bring in three loan additions. Notts County striker Danny Haynes, Sunderland winger Duncan Watmore, 19, and 21-year-old Arsenal right-back Daniel Boateng joined until the end of the season. Dundee United secured a similar deal for 20-year-old Newcastle central defender Curtis Good.
Partick Thistle signed Ghana international Prince Buaben, who won the Scottish Cup during four years at Dundee United before joining Watford in 2011 and moving to Carlisle last summer. Midfielder George Moncur also arrived from West Ham.
Ross County completed their seventh signing of the window as 25-year-old Slovakian right-back Erik Cikos joined from Slovan Bratislava until the end of the season. They later added under-20s midfielder Scott Ferries from Aberdeen.
Kilmarnock signed Sunderland winger David Moberg Karlsson on loan until the end of the season. The 19-year-old joined Sunderland for £1.5m from IFK Gothenburg last summer but has made just one appearance.
Danny Grainger moved from St Mirren to Dunfermline while Inverness loaned Calum Ferguson to Montrose.
St Johnstone signed Nottingham Forest midfielder Mark Davies – son of City Ground boss Billy Davies – on loan for the rest of the season. He is joined by 18-year-old Fisayo Adarabioyo, a former Manchester City trainee.
The big deal in the Championship saw Falkirk midfielder Jay Fulton move to Swansea.