Leigh Griffiths happy at Celtic and targeting 100 goals

Celtic's Leigh Griffiths is closing in on 100 goals for the club. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS
Celtic's Leigh Griffiths is closing in on 100 goals for the club. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS
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The figures are always to the fore with Leigh Griffiths. Next week, the striker will bring up the four-year anniversary of his joining Celtic.

The 27-year-old wants nothing more than to keep racking up the years and goals in the club’s colours.

After his winner as a game-changing substitute in Tuesday night’s victory over Partick Thistle, he is now only four goals away from joining a select band of players to have brought up the 100 total for Celtic. Meanwhile, Saturday provides the Leither and boyhood Hibernian fan with the chance to complete a scoring set as the Easter Road club visit Glasgow’s east end. Hibs are only top-flight team he has yet to net against... with any suggestion that this might be more than mere coincidence a sore point for the player.

All of this can present a rosy picture of life for Griffiths at Celtic, but it has had its thorns. Although minor in terms of some previous difficulties, the fact is Scotland’s No 9 has started only five of his club’s past 20 games. As on-loan Paris Saint-Germain forward Odsonne Edouard has been given opportunities, it must be noted that Moussa Dembele has fared little better than Griffiths in terms of starts.

Brendan Rodgers benched Demeble for Celtic’s first two matches after the shutdown because he feels transfer speculation has affected the 21-year-old’s focus. As assistant manager Chris Davies acknowledged this week, Dembele has moving from the club in his mind.

For Griffiths, nothing could be further from his thoughts, and that’s despite him being linked with West Bromich Albion, Crystal Palace and Swansea City, the sort of clubs supposedly tracking Dembele.

“I don’t want to leave here,” said Griffiths. It’s a massive club and I love playing for this club. I am focusing on trying to hit that 100-goal mark and won’t be going anywhere. There’s been a lot of strikers who have come and gone but I’m still here. It seems I’ve been here longer than I have. But I love this club and don’t want to leave. The quicker I hit that 100 goal mark the better.

“Of course it’s frustrating not playing but there are three strikers here who are vying for that one place. Ultimately two will be frustrated. In the second half against Thistle I thought Odsonne and me linked up well [as a two-striker combination]. The most important thing is we managed to get the win.

“You can’t take the huff if you’re not playing. You just need to bide your time. I’ve seen it time and time again. When I do get the chance I try to take it.”

There are patently unspoken – in the main – reservations that Rodgers harbours over Griffiths. To watch him warm down on certain occasions in the past month, the striker has looked as if it is a struggle to run the length of himself. He has to contend with various niggles and yet on the pitch, his work-rate is outstanding. Meanwhile, it is hard to see the Celtic manager being other than disquieted that the private life of Griffiths seems forever to be salaciously picked over in public.

For all this, the former Hibs man is the best goalscoring excavator Celtic have whenever they find themselves in a hole. Against that, Griffiths has scored in only one of his past five starts. There is no question he will reach the scoring century as only 18 Celtic players have before him, and in so doing cement his stature as one of the most instinctive finishers of the club’s modern age.

“It would mean a lot to me,” he said of the 100 club. “I’ve never scored more than 50 goals for a club so to get 100 at a club like this would be massive. I think the last player to do it was John Hartson. You just look at the strikers who have been here over the years who have scored a lot of goals but didn’t get to the 100 mark.

“There’s not many who’ve managed it. John Hartson did it but that was about 13 years ago so it when I do hit that mark it will be a great feat for me. But I am just concentrating on trying to stretch Celtic’s lead at the top of the table and trying to get a run of games.”