There would never be any mistaking Leigh Griffiths and Odsonne Edouard for Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains. Yet, the Scottish international brought to mind the classic closing scene of Casablanca in floating that the Celtic strike pair could be at the start of a beautiful friendship in football after linking up at Perth on Wednesday night.
Griffiths had never been selected alongside Edouard by Brendan Rodgers until Wednesday evening’s Betfred Cup assignment against St Johnstone, won by his predatory late finish.
It made for the first time since May 2017 he has scored in three straight appearances. Calf problems and the presence of the now departed Moussa Dembele and Edouard seemed to have blunted Griffiths’ edge in more recent times and strained Rodgers’ backing for the complicated maverick.
Now on a run of five goals in nine games, the player does not consider that the return of his “goal scent” – as Rodgers called it after the cup success that set up Celtic for a semi-final against Hearts at Hampden on the Sunday evening of 28 October – need snuff out opportunities for Edouard, despite a near two-month barren spell
“Hopefully, that’s a partnership going forward,” Grififths said. “You see the big man’s qualities [Edouard]. He can make space, he gets the ball and drives at folk and he’s a big threat. As a striker, you are always going to be under the cosh, especially if you are not scoring. But the big man works tirelessly in games and in training. He’s a big, big talent and people have seen what he can produce. Folk have to remember he is only 20 years old. But he has all the talent in the world.”
Griffiths is keen to park all talk of pecking orders for frontline positions at Celtic...despite his mouthing he was the f***ing No 1 during emotional outpourings on netting against Rosenborg and Kilmarnock .
“I don’t think there is a designated No 1 striker.” he said. “As a striker, you want to be selfish, you want to play, you want to score goals, but it’s entirely up to the manager who he selects and what formation he wants to go with. If myself and Odsonne can fit into that team, that’s great. If not, one of us will be chomping at the bit to get into the side.”
Griffiths’ goal celebration at Perth was running and hugging Rodgers. It was a deliberate public act after the Irishman has come under fire. A checklist of perceived missteps have comprised playing style, claims he hasn’t engendered harmony in the dressing room, and pronouncements the 45-year-old has made as the club have endured their poorest league start in two decades as a result of defeats away to Hearts and Kilmarnock. And all of this before a summer offer to make oodles of cash in China emerged.
“It was a show of unity [running to the manager],” Griffiths said. “There has been a lot of talk this week about a divide in the camp, but we wanted to show everyone that we are still united, we are still fighting for the same cause and we are together as one.
“People are always going to talk, especially when we get a bad result. But it’s how we bounce back and the boys have that bouncebackability to go and show why we are a top team. We might not always play the best football, but we’ll always show our character and we got a win and a clean sheet.
“If you get an offer from China [as the manager did], I’m guessing it would be big bucks.But you know the gaffer’s love for the club, the way he wants to do things and the way he goes about his business.
“There’s always going to be talk about him, but we have shown we are unified and we have got three trophies to defend this season. We want to go on and win them again.”