Love And Affection-And A Bang On The Ear!
In the continuing absence of the fabled white smoke at Celtic Park,not to mention the silence from our custodians old and new,I thought I’d turn to a rather controversial subject for today’s article.
The future of Leigh Griffiths.
About a year ago during the first lockdown,we ran a series of articles titled “Me,Myself,I” where members were invited to write about their favourite five albums. One clown gave me grief for the title,calling me narcissistic and worse for it. As I make no secret of being a fan of Joan Armatrading,that the title referred to one of her early albums was obviously lost on him. Today’s then is the title of her first big hit,but also a good description of what I think Griff needs most from us. The second part,by The Waterboys,is a good description of what awaits him otherwise!
Griff has been with us now for seven years,but in only two of those seasons has he been first-choice striker. 60 goals in 90 matches showed us what he can do. Those seasons were under the leadership of Ronny Deila,and whatever we may say about him,he managed to get the best out of players like Griff,CalMac,Rogic and Jamesie,as well as a number of others whom many of us had written off.
I’m not privy to his methods,but I suspect it was a mixture of love and affection,and a bang on the ear! The arm around the shoulder when that was the right thing to do,yet also the promise of what would be forthcoming if standards were allowed to drop in ANY aspect of a player’s behaviour at the club.
Griff,I suspect,reacts to that sort of man-management better than others,because he is aware of his potential to stray. Acutely aware,I reckon,of the need to stay focused because his off-field activities are,shall we say,more suited to the players of the 50s-70s era. We all saw that every time he returned from close season with his trademark wee paunch! But he worked that off in no time every time,and was there for the team,where he should be,scoring goals.
More even than the arrival of Moussa Dembele,I think that was why he so quickly drifted from the plans of Brendan Rodgers. Deila had already advised Rodgers of the fragility of Griffiths,and Rodgers barely played him then gave him “compassionate leave” to work out his problems. He and the club were roundly applauded for this level of understanding in a very unforgiving sport,but in retrospect it was completely the wrong thing to do. His treatment should have been in-house (though confidential,of course) while allowing him,say,an hour of training to maintain both his fitness and his bond with the rest of the players.
When he finally returned,Rodgers clearly judged his fitness levels to be nowhere near the levels required-and he was back to Square One! This time it was Eddy who was ahead of him,as well a few others on occasion who weren’t fit to lace his drinks. The final straw for many being his return from lockdown last year looking about as unfit as me. Hardly surprising when he was left unsupervised for about four months.
There is an option on his contract for another year. I say that we have to take that up,and that he has to be worked hard but encouraged,reminded of his importance to the team. Given the carrot of an extension if he is proving himself by Christmas. As it stands,it looks like our only other “strikers” next season will be Ajeti and Johnston-and that is a bloody scary prospect. Our new manager-whoever he is,whenever he arrives-has to make a priority of getting Griff back to the player he should be,because he won’t have alternatives up front. I’d suggest that he gets him into the training ground at least twice a week to give him a few fitness routines. Remind him that three more seasons of doing what he does best for us will put him among the fabled few who have scored more than 200 goals for the club.
I’m as pissed off as anyone at too many performances this season,and we will thankfully never have to see some of those players again. Griff shares his own responsibility here too,but he is not yet beyond redemption. The decision on his future is down to the new manager,but the success or failure of that decision is Griff’s alone.
Above article by BMCUWP