CELTIC legend Davie Hay has offered advice to Leigh Griffiths with the striker’s Hoops future apparently in doubt.
There is a chance Neil Lennon may field the frozen-out striker in tonight’s Scottish Cup-tie against Partick Thistle at Firhill – and that would give the 29-year-old Scotland international the opportunity to answer some of his critics.
Griffiths, who has scored a mere three goals in over a year, looks to have slipped down the pecking order in the champions’ firing squad with the £3.5million arrival of Polish forward Patryk Klimala and there has been speculation he could be heading out on loan.
However, former manager and player Hay, now a club ambassador, reckons the player may still have something to offer.
Speaking in the Evening Times, he said: “Leigh has only played bit-parts here and there since he has come back into the first-team picture at Celtic and hasn’t been used as much as maybe he would have wanted or the fans may have wanted.
“Considering that Odsonne Edouard was crying out for a breather at some stages, that is a little bit concerning when it comes to considering what future he has at the club.
ONE…Leigh Griffiths stabs out a foot at the back post.
TWO…the Hoops hitman watches his shot ease past keeper Tomas Cerny.
THREE…Griffiths turns away in joy as the ball settles in the net.
“In saying that, Neil Lennon may think there is a place for a third striker, at least, particularly as nobody yet knows how Patryk Klimala will settle in. He is only 21 and sometimes it can take a bit of time for young players especially to get used to a new environment. And Scottish football can take a bit of getting used to, as well.
“There has been talk about Griffiths going to Hibs or somewhere like that, but I think Neil may look to keep him around. There are a lot of games still to be played, although whether Leigh would be happy to sit on the bench as much as he has been, only he could tell you.
“There are a lot of people doubting him right now and I know he has been involved in responding to that a little on social media. His best response to those doubters, though, would be to do what he has done before time and time again when he has faced such doubts, by buckling down in training and then grasping the opportunities when they come.
“I can’t talk for what is happening on the training ground, but on the park so far this season, he hasn’t really done that. Albeit, he has had few chances to shine.
“It’s been a long time now since Leigh played a full 90 minutes on the domestic front for Celtic. He has played a couple of dead-rubbers in Europe, but he hasn’t had a full game in Scotland since a 1-0 home win over Aberdeen in September 2018.
“No matter who you are, or how much talent you have, if you miss that much football, there is undoubtedly a chance that you lose your edge and your confidence. The only solution is for Leigh to work all the harder to try and get that back.
“When you are getting such limited game-time though, that can be hard to do, and it could be that a loan move would help him regain that confidence and sharpness that he must have lost over the last 15 months or so.”
MATCHWINNER…Griffiths kisses the shirt as he accepts the applause for the fans.
Hay added: “If Leigh is to stay at Celtic this season, then he has to take the rare chances that he gets and one could very well present itself at Firhill tonight.
“I expect that Celtic will have a strong side out given that they want to make a statement after what happened in the Rangers game prior to the break, but it seems the ideal opportunity to give Griffiths a start and try to get him a goal or two that would do him the world of good.
“I don’t think that Klimala will start having only arrived on Monday. Yes, he has trained with his new team-mates a few times already, but he is still just getting to know his new colleagues from both a personal and a footballing point of view and I think this game will come too soon for him.
“He might be on the bench, but I wouldn’t expect him to play against Kilmarnock in midweek, either. For me, he will need that bedding-in period first and it is unfair to expect too much from him too soon.
“My gut feeling is that Griffiths will start with Odsonne Edouard on the bench to be called on in an emergency. If Neil Lennon can extend Edouard’s winter break until Wednesday, at least, then I think he would love to do that, but he should still be there in reserve should something go wrong.”
Coincidentally, Griffiths was the Hoops’ matchwinner at Firhill in a tense Premiership tussle in January 23 2018 with the score standing at 1-1, with Connor Sammon scoring with a penalty-kick for the Jags and Scott Sinclair reply with a spot-kick.
It looked as though the champions were about to shed two points until the intervention of Griffiths who slipped an angled drive beyond Tomas Cerny to make sure of victory.
An action replay in Maryhill this evening would be more than welcomed by the hitman.