Leigh Griffiths relishing return to where career began

Leigh Griffiths:  Has never lost at Saughton Enclosure. Picture: SNS
Leigh Griffiths: Has never lost at Saughton Enclosure. Picture: SNS
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Leigh Griffiths is relishing the prospect of going back to where it all began in the last 16 of the Scottish Cup but he’s not so sure if his Celtic team-mates will have the same feeling about Saughton Enclosure, writes Stephen Halliday.

The luck of the draw has paired either East Kilbride or Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale against the champions and it was with the latter that a young Griffiths cut his teeth to earn his move into senior football.

The Scotland star is friendly with some of the coaches at the Edinburgh club, which has been prolific in producing players over the decades.

He realises that if Vale win through they may seek to move the match for financial reasons, but it would be a walk down memory lane for Griffiths who used to score sixes and sevens for the East of Scotland outfit.

He said: “I wouldn’t mind going back to Saughton Enclosure and get in those wee tiny changing rooms. It would be an eye opener for some of our boys. I don’t think Tyler Blackett would be particularly happy swapping Old Trafford for Saughton Enclosure.

“It was my field of dreams, definitely, when I was a kid. That’s where you played most of the cup finals and, for Hutchie Vale, it was basically a home game for us.

“I’ve won a few games there in my time. I don’t think I’ve lost, actually – and I don’t want to start now.

“My scoring record there is not bad. I was pretty much a goal machine when I was younger, scoring five, six, seven a game.

“I wouldn’t say I’m going to score that amount again. But it would nice to be back on the scoresheet there.’

“My sister’s boyfriend, Stephen McKenzie, is one of the coaches there and one of my best mates Matthew, his big brother is Fraser Ogilvie, below, one of the coaches there – and he used to be at Hibs with Scott Brown.

“So there will be an added incentive with those two to get us in the next round.”

The Scottish Cup-tie will come at the end of a week that could define the season for Celtic in terms of their aspirations of winning the Treble. Griffiths added: “That week we’ve got the semi-final and then we play Aberdeen away on the Wednesday night before the Scottish Cup-tie. So it could be a good week for us or it could be a really bad week.”

East Kilbride and Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale will play their postponed fourth-round tie at the Lowland League club’s 500-capacity K Park ground in the South Lanarkshire town on 20 January.

Formed just six years ago, a tie against Celtic would be transformational for East Kilbride. “I don’t know how much money it would be worth to us,” said chairman Mark Horner. “But it would be life-changing for the club.

“We don’t know where we would play it if we got through. I believe we can’t have it at K-Park, according to the security people. I don’t know where we could hold it, we haven’t looked into that or got that far. But it would be worth several years’ money for us and it would change the profile too. It would take the club to a new level. It would enable us to do so much. A lot of people in East Kilbride still get us mixed up with the junior side. They don’t understand the pyramid system. So it would let people know where we are and what we can achieve.”