Leigh Griffiths: If I can get half as many European goals as Henrik Larsson I'll be doing well
Yet Griffiths can consider that even with limited game time this season he has made a crucial contributions to Celtic cause. Not least in his club having the opportunity to progress to the last 32 of the Europa League tomorrow evening.
Assuming that Leipzig beat Rosenborg at home in their final Group B encounter, Rodgers’ side will then require to avoid defeat by section winners Salzburg to secure European competition after Christmas.
It is a position that looked out of Celtic’s reach when they lost comprehensively in Salzburg and Leipzig in matches two and three. However, subsequent victories at home to the Germans and away to Rosenborg transformed their fortunes.
However, without Griffiths, European hopes would have been extinguished almost instantly. Celtic looked like being held to a goalless draw at home to the Norwegian champions on matchday one before he climbed off the bench. He delivered an 87th-minute headed winner that produced a passionate, sweary celebration in keeping with the “mixed emotions” he has experienced this year.
That strike brought him a 13th European goal, this total a healthy helping of the 104 he has netted for the club. Healthy enough, in fact to move him joint fifth with Willie Wallace, Steve Chalmers and Georgios Samaras in the club’s all-time list of European scorers. Indeed it was a month earlier in European competition that Griffiths netted against Suduva to become the first Celtic player since John Hartson 14 years earlier to bring up the goal ton for the club.
“It was nice,” Griffiths said of the Rosenborg winner. “There was obviously a lot of frustration in the celebration. But any goal you score is important regardless of whether it is a tap-in or a 30-yard strike. They are all important to you. It helped us get three points on the board straight away. We have kicked on from there.
“It is nice to have scored so many in Europe and, having signed that new four-year contract, I’ve been given the chance to add to that total. To be honest, I’m not far away from the top five of Celtic’s European goalscorers. Listen, it doesn’t matter which competition you’re scoring in as long as you’re doing your job; that’s the most important thing.
“I don’t go searching for the records myself but people put it online – especially on Twitter – saying you’re close to this or that record. I’ll have a quick glance and, if I’m up there, I’ll take pride in it. I’ve still got a long way to go so I’ll add to those totals. Obviously, there’s a lot of prestige attached to European goals and, when you look at the list and see that you’re close to a certain player then you want to emulate him.
“I know Henrik [Larsson] has scored more than anyone else [with 35 goals] and if I could get half as many as he did then I’ll be doing well. Getting 100 goals for the club was a real milestone and my next target is to see how close I can get to 200.”
Sitting only three goals shy of Chris Sutton, who is second only to Larsson for European goals in Celtic colours, there must be every chance that Griffiths can overtake the Englishman in time.
That was never anticipated when he joined Celtic in an £850,000 deal from Wolverhampton Wanderers in January 2014.
While there were never any questions expressed of Griffiths’ ability to net at domestic level, plenty of doubts were raised about his ability to do so when stepping up to the European domain.
“I like proving people wrong and shutting them up,” Griffiths said. “People who didn’t think I’d be able to cut it here said that I would be away the first chance the manager got, but I’ve been here for a long time now and the fact that he gave me that four-year deal shows he has faith in me.
“So I don’t think I have to prove anything to anyone now, not really. The manager has said publicly that he knows what I can do, as do the other managers I’ve worked for. The gaffer knows how far I can go in the game.”