HIBERNIAN manager Alan Stubbs last night refused to rule out a move to sign Leigh Griffiths on loan from Celtic.
Stubbs, a former Celtic player, said it would be “disrespectful” to speculate about a player who is at another club, but admitted he would be keen to sign anyone who could make a significant difference to his struggling team.
Celtic manager Ronny Deila said yesterday that he wanted to keep Griffiths at Parkhead, stating there had not been any “real talks” between the two clubs. But speculation about the unsettled striker has persisted for several weeks now, and neither Celtic nor Hibs have sought to quash it categorically.
“I don’t want to speak about players that are not mine – is that me ducking it?,” Stubbs said yesterday when asked if he could kill speculation that the former Hibs player is set to return to Easter Road on an emergency loan. “No, I can’t comment on someone else’s player.
“Obviously there’s speculation, but as far as I’m aware it’s just speculation. I don’t know where it’s come from, I don’t know the source, but especially with it being my former club, it would be very disrespectful for me to speak about a player who’s not even ours.”
Stubbs has declared that his signings since taking over as Hibs manager have been “very good”, but his club, who visit Ross County on League Cup duty tonight, have so far won only two matches in the Championship. The man who began the season as Hibs’ first-choice striker, Farid El Alagui, will be out of action for some time as he recovers from an Achilles injury, and there is no doubt that Griffiths would fit the bill as a forward likely to make a significant impact on the club’s fortunes.
“I think if it was someone that we really thought could really make a difference, then I think the board would be very supportive,” Stubbs continued when asked if he was still looking to add to his squad between now and the next transfer window. “That’s all I can really comment on.
“I think we all know why [the Griffiths speculation] comes around. Obviously you’ve got a player who’s not playing and people are putting two and two together and making six.
“So, that’s all I can say. I want to really focus on Ross County and not on something that’s got nothing to do with me.”
Deila, whose team have a home League Cup tie against Hearts tomorrow evening, repeated the message he first gave after the champions’ 1-1 league draw at Dundee three weeks ago – a game in which Griffiths came off the bench to equalise for his side. “He’s at Celtic and nothing is going on with Hibs,” the Norwegian said. “He’s here and he’s in our plans.
“There haven’t been any real talks between the clubs, so we just keep on. Leigh is playing games here and he’s fighting for a place in the starting XI. We want him here. He is here and that is what we want.
“I know there’s been interest, but we haven’t agreed on anything, but we’ll see what is happening. We’ll see how it goes on.”
Deila insisted the 24-year-old striker still had the same opportunity to claim a place in the squad. “He needs to show himself in training, work hard every day and take his chances when he gets them,” the manager said. “That’s the most important thing – same as everybody else.”
Asked if Griffiths would be in the squad for the Hearts match, Deila only added: “We’ll see.”
Emergency loans are only available to clubs in the Championship and Divisions One and Two, and are for a maximum of 93 days. While Griffiths might welcome the chance to play regular first-team football again, one obvious stumbling block would be his wages. Celtic would expect Hibs to pay a significant proportion of Griffiths’ salary – something that might deter the Easter Road board from being as “very supportive” as Stubbs would like them to be.