HibS manager Pat Fenlon last night hailed the “devilment” and potential of Leigh Griffiths after the striker sealed a return to Easter Road on loan from Wolves. The 21-year-old will pen a deal until January and becomes Fenlon’s fifth summer signing as he rebuilds a squad which endured a turgid campaign last term, narrowly avoiding relegation and suffering a humiliating 5-1 defeat to Hearts in the Scottish Cup final.
However, Griffiths, who spent last season on loan with the Hibees, was one bright spark for the Edinburgh outfit, scoring 11 goals in 37 matches.
And Fenlon sees the Scotland under-21 international as a vital addition to a striking pool which had previously looked worryingly shallow following the departure of last season’s top scorer Garry O’Connor.
“He is a proven SPL goalscorer and they are difficult to come by,” said Fenlon. “When we lost Garry [O’Connor] and Leigh at the end of the season we were losing a lot of goals from last season, and it was vital we filled that void.
“I have kept in touch with him over the summer and Hibs is the only place he wants to play his football at the moment. That is great for us, although I really believe he can still play at a higher level than the SPL. There has never been any doubt about Leigh’s talent, ability to get goals or work-rate and I know what he can bring to this team.”
While Griffiths made a positive impression on the ball, the former Dundee man also courted controversy during a boisterous season in Leith. He has served three separate bans for gesturing towards supporters, prompting a warning from Fenlon. The player appeared remorseful later, apologising on the club’s online TV channel, and describing his actions as “sheer stupidity”.
But Fenlon believes Griffiths can fit the with the ethos of hard work and discipline which has become a necessity as the Irishman builds a Hibs side in his own image. “He plays on the edge and I think you have to encourage that to a point,” said Fenlon. “I don’t think there is any problem with his temperament – it’s the stupidity that we need to work on. But he is a young boy. However, I don’t want to knock that out of them. You do not want to have 16 or 17 choir boys. You want a bit of devilment about the place.
“We just have to channel it in the right way and we will work on things. Situations like the Hearts games, I think he has become too engrossed in them. He needs to learn to play the game.”
Griffiths’ second spell with Hibs comes after the player was reportedly told he had no future at Wolves under new Molineux boss Stale Solbakken. The player said on Twitter: “If the manager has made up his mind then it’s going to be really hard to change it.”
He flew in to Hibernian’s Dutch training camp last night but is not expected to feature against the Zeeland Select this afternoon. He could, however, be in contention to play against Union Berlin on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Hibs’ Cup final goalkeeper Mark Brown has joined Southend on trial. His contract with the Easter Road side expired during the close season. Talks were ongoing with the Hibees, however it appears a return to Edinburgh could now be unlikely for the 31-year-old, who featured for Southend against Braintree yesterday. Young keeper Calum Antell, however, has signed a new one-year deal.