Frank McAvennie’s advice for Leigh Griffiths

Leigh Griffiths: Courted trouble. Picture: SNS
Leigh Griffiths: Courted trouble. Picture: SNS
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THERE is no doubt in Frank McAvennie’s mind that his old club Celtic have made a “great addition” at a “great price” in last week paying Wolverhampton Wanderers close to £1 million for Leigh Griffiths.

But the former striker has one issue with the latest signing from the Scottish champions, and that is the 22-year-old’s style of play is too similar to his own.

“I just wanted to get involved in the game, come out of the box and that is a big part of Leigh’s game,” he said. “He is not the out-and-out striker I would like to see here. He is not a poacher.

“He is a hell of a player and he will create chances for other players, he will link up and he will score great goals. You can’t not like him but I still think Lenny [Neil Lennon] needs a poacher. I do not know if he has the trust in [Teemu] Pukki or [Amido] Balde and they have not stepped up to the mark yet.

“Leigh will score goals but he is not the one fans wanted to sign for Europe. There are a lot of chances being made at Celtic and a poacher would finish them off.

“I wasn’t a poacher but they need a Tony Cottee-type, somebody who was just a poacher, did not get involved in anything. A bit like Coisty [Ally McCoist]. Gary Hooper was here and he was just a poacher and he scored a lot of great goals. That’s what frightens defenders… unless they can change Leigh and make him a poacher.

“I would have liked them to sign another striker in January because then you have a few months to bed in and get used to the players. They have a few games early doors again so whoever comes in. Leigh will definitely be good enough for the [Champions League] qualifiers but I hope he is good enough to frighten defenders when it comes to the big stage.

“From what I gather, the club tried to buy other players and Lenny and Peter [Lawwell, the chief executive] have to come out and say that, because the fans just find them spending £800,000 on Leigh – which is a great price for him – and think they have been short-changed, which is not the case.

“For whatever reason, there have been a few players that have not wanted to come to the club. Whether it is the Rangers situation, because the league is weaker, I don’t know. I know for players in England that Celtic and Rangers was all they were interested in.

“Players were coming up here thinking they would get Rangers six times with maybe meetings in the cups. That’s a big thing and it is not here now and neither is the sponsorship.

“Players will go to the [English] Championship rather than up here and that would not happen before. The club has to come out and say that players said no. It would be better for everyone.”

Lennon has said precisely as much. McAvennie must have missed the Celtic manager’s admission that a move for a Turkish striker had broken down in the final week of the window, but then as a player the 54-year-old always did seem to live in his own little bubble.

It was a bubble wherein his charm, charisma and all-round likeability meant his love of carousing was not a recipe for ending up in scrapes. Another aspect helped too, mind you, that doesn’t provide a template to follow for Griffiths who is no big boozer but has seemed drawn to confrontation.

“The biggest problem Leigh is going to have is that everywhere he goes he will be noticed,” McAvennie said.

“When he was at Hibs he could hide, but he cannot do that. I used to go to London at the weekends and then come back on the Tuesday. I am a Glasgow boy so it was all right for me, I knew what it was about.

“I was fortunate because nobody ever wanted to fight me. I cross the divide. I do not give a monkey’s about the religion thing and everyone knew that. I never got bothered.

“Lenny will know how to handle Leigh. Once you walk in that door you realise it is a massive club.

“The only problems I had here was getting up here on a Monday, that was all. That was nothing to do with the club, that was to do with British Airways. The flights were terrible.”

Asked what advice he would give Griffiths – in itself a bizarre concept – McAvennie offered up some with an amazingly straightish face.

“Just settle down,” he said. “And just take it in because it is hard when you are there but when you leave the club you realise how big it is.

“He should enjoy it. He is here and the supporters will give him a chance because he is a good player. It might sound like he is not the player I wanted – and he is a great addition to the squad – but I would just like to see an out-and-out striker, a poacher coming in. I see a lot of chances and a poacher would put them in every week.”