LEIGH GRIFFITHS rounded off an promising season with a memorable brace, earning Scotland a draw against old rivals England in a FIFA World Cup qualifier on Saturday.
Those goals were his first for the national team and he will be hoping Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers was watching – next term he will fighting for a first team place at Celtic, but faces tough competition for the main striker position at Celtic Park.
When he was signed from Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2014 by Neil Lennon, a few eyebrows were raised as many people doubted the quality and temperament of Griffiths. However, he has steadily improved and has gone from seven goals in his first half-season to scoring 31 goals in the 2015/16 season, finishing top scorer in the Scottish Premiership and helping Celtic pick up their fifth title in a row.
Now, as part of a team that went through the entire domestic season unbeaten, he must return to Celtic Park knowing he must dethrone Moussa Dembele as the first choice striker – so higly rated is the young Frenchman however, that Dembele, according to bigfreebet.com, is favourite to finish top scorer in the division next season already.
Up until the weekend just gone, there were doubts over his ability to do it at the very top – he made three appearances in the Champions League in the 2016/17 season against Manchester City (twice) and Borussia Monchengladbach and never managed to find the net in any of those games.
However, his quickfire double against England, which prompted England ‘keeper Joe Hart to claim that ‘even five Peter Crouch’s in his defensive wall couldn’t stop them’ has surely silenced some doubters.
Griffiths started just fifteen league matches for Celtic in their invincible season just gone, but with a return of twelve goals he really does deliver and is starting to attract interest from south of the border. Recent reports have linked him to Newcastle and West Brom. Leeds have also been rumoured to have a strong interest in linking him up with Chris Wood in a push to gain promotion from the Championship.
None of this is of any interest to Griffiths who is 100% committed to remaining at Celtic and forcing his way into the starting eleven.
His pace is not in doubt and he is one of the quickest players on show in Scotland, however, one attribute he may to be lacking in is upper-body strength. In European football especially, Celtic find themselves under pressure for long periods of the game and being a striker that has the strength to fight off defenders and hold up the ball to bring his team-mates into play takes on extra significance. Moussa Dembele proved to be more than efficient at this level as his three Champions League goals and overall performances showed.
So, as Celtic gear up for their seventh Scottish Premier League title in a row, their main focus must be an improvement on the European stage. As they recover from a gruelling season where they played more than 60 matches, Griffiths will already be desperate to kick-off the new season and challenge for his place leading the attack at Celtic Park.
Celtic are certainly luck to have not one but two top quality strikers!