LEIGH Griffiths will be relieved to hear he has not jettisoned his chances of remaining at Hibernian for the remainder of the season after aiming an offensive gesture in the direction of Rangers supporters last weekend.
Although new manager Pat Fenlon has placed a great emphasis on discipline since being installed as manager at the end of last month, he has already reached agreement in principle with Wolves manager Mick McCarthy for the striker to extend his stay with Hibs past the loan period’s original expiry date of 9 January.
Under the original terms of the agreement, Griffiths had only four more league games left before returning to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
This has been reduced to three following the club’s acceptance of a one-match ban offered by the Scottish Football Association’s new compliance officer after the player breached rule 200, which covers the use of “offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures”. It means Griffiths is suspended for tomorrow’s crucial league fixture at Aberdeen.
However, Fenlon expressed the hope that Wolves and Hibs can now come to a financial agreement after he paved the way for an extension to Griffiths’ loan deal after talks with McCarthy. Although the new Easter Road manager is unhappy about being denied the services of the striker this weekend, he knows it is Griffiths’ own fault.
“The players know what we expect,” he said yesterday. “We won’t accept anything other than what we have put down in the guidelines. They all know that. It is bad enough to lose players through injuries or red cards and suspension, but to lose a player for something like that.
“He’s a big player for us at the moment. We could do with him on Saturday, to be honest.”
The player has been disciplined and now they move on, said Fenlon. “We have dealt with the situation,” he added. “It’s not what we want. Hopefully it will be the last time it happens. As a player you should know what to expect, particularly when you are playing Rangers or Celtic and there is a big crowd, and they can get at you a little bit. You have to be able to handle it if you are going to be a player.”
The incident will not colour their relationship should it extend into next year. Fenlon’s obvious frustration has not weakened his resolve to retain the player until the end of the season at least.
The financial details still need to be agreed between the clubs, but McCarthy has proved easy to deal with as far as Fenlon is concerned. The pair know each other from the days when McCarthy managed the Republic of Ireland international side.
“I know him pretty well. I spoke to Mick when we came in, just to make sure that was OK,” he said. “It’s probably outside mine and Mick’s remit at the moment. But he’s happy enough for him to stay and I am happy to keep him.”
Griffiths is also keen to stay, stressed Fenlon. “It’s really between the clubs at the moment,” he said. “It’s on-going. We hope to get it sorted out as quickly as possible.”
Of more immediate concern is the need to take three points from tomorrow’s visit to Pittodrie, a stadium the new manager will be visiting for the first time. Fenlon braved the elements at McDiarmid Park on Tuesday night as Aberdeen earned a first away win of their league campaign with a 2-1 win over St Johnstone. Fenlon was “pleasantly surprised” by the visitors’ standard of play, especially given the conditions. “There was a good shape about them and they tried to pass the ball around,” he said. “The front two fought very hard.”
The appalling weather in Perth led to the inevitable re-airing of support for summer football. Fenlon does at least speak from a position of some authority on the subject having been a manager in the League of Ireland until his move to Hibs. Ireland made the switch to summer football in 2003. Even the size of crowd in Perth made Fenlon think of home. “I think there was 1,500-1,600 people there; it was like being at a League of Ireland game I suppose,” he said.
He accepts that “it is a completely different scenario” in Scotland to Ireland. “There’s a lot of history and tradition in relation to having fixtures at a particular time of year,” he said.
But he did point to the improved performances of Irish clubs in Europe in recent times, although he also acknowledged there was no significant increase in attendances as a result of the change in schedule. “But I think it’s definitely worth looking into,” he said.
Training has again been brisk this week, but Fenlon knows most have heard that before. “We need to transfer that on to the park,” he said. Garry O’Connor is nursing a bruised foot, while Isaiah Osbourne is also struggling after picking up a knock.