I want to stay at Hibs for as long as I can, says Leigh Griffiths

LEIGH Griffiths hopes he can stay at Hibernian for as long as possible after accepting there is no room for him at Wolves.

With 18 months of his contract to run at the West Midlands club, the striker could sit tight and collect good money for playing reserve-team football. But he would rather play in the first team in the SPL than second string in England and, although he will dutifully return to Wolves if a loan extension can not be agreed, he has his heart set on staying at the club he has always supported.

“I’m contracted here until 9 January and it’s out of my hands,” Griffiths said yesterday. “If Hibs want to extend my loan deal or make it permanent, that’s out of my hands but I’m loving every minute here and if it happens, it happens. If not, I’ll be going back to Wolves.

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“The ball’s in their court. They can either extend my loan deal or try to sell me. If nobody comes in in January I’m going to be back down there playing reserve football, but I’d rather be playing first-team football up here. It’s up to them if they want to sell me in January or extend my loan deal to the summer when they’ve got another opportunity.”

With Garry O’Connor fit again after missing the Christmas Eve defeat by Dundee United because of a toe injury, Griffiths may start on the bench at home to Inverness Caledonian Thistle tonight. And, as manager Pat Fenlon has made Irish striker Eoin Doyle his first signing for Hibs, Griffiths will have more competition for a place in the squad if he does stay.

And, while making the right diplomatic noises, he made it clear that he does want to stay, even if it means accepting that what looked like being a dream move to England has not worked out. “When I left Dundee I knew I wasn’t going straight down to the Wolves first team, but I missed playing football week in, week out.

“When I came up here to the team I supported as a boy, I loved it. To be honest, I never want to leave. When you’re not playing week in, week out, you do miss playing on a Saturday. Sometimes you wait two weeks for a reserve game down there. So, when I got the chance to come here on loan, I was delighted.”

The 21-year-old was less delighted when Wolves manager Mick McCarthy phoned him last week to say the club planned to sell him in January but he knows there is still a chance of extending his loan spell with Hibs.

“I didn’t think that was coming at this stage but he’s made his mind up and I can’t do very much about that now. If I can extend my loan here until the end of the season I’ll be absolutely delighted.”

Griffiths scored the opening goal at Tannadice but Hibs never looked comfortable with their lead and United took the points with three second-half goals. Fenlon questioned his team’s fitness after the game but Griffiths suggested the principal problem was the team’s collective lack of confidence.

“The boys are thinking if we go a goal up and it hits the 60, 65-minute mark, it’s like, all right, we’re going to concede again. And as soon as the first goal comes in, it’s like, right, when’s the second goal coming in, instead of us saying, right, we’ve conceded now, let’s go and push forward and go and win the game.”

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Fenlon agreed yesterday that mental strength was a concern and argued the team was short of leaders on the pitch. “When we concede a goal, we get very, very nervous,” the manager said. “That takes over, rather than thinking about our game plan that may have gone well for 40 or 50 minutes.

“I think we’ve got a lot of genuine and good players, although we need to freshen it up, there’s no doubt about that. We need lads who are going to bring us a bit of seniority, as well. We don’t have loads of great leaders.

“We’ve got a lot of very good lads who will work hard and be honest. But we could do with one or two who will be more vocal on the pitch, who will help when we get into difficult situations.”

One look at the league table shows Hibs are in a difficult situation already. A win tonight, however, would take them to within a point of tenth-placed Caley Thistle and at least ensure they remained level on points with bottom club Dunfermline.