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New Hoops hero Griffiths a leading light during testing times

Lee Gormley | January 21, 2016

Celtic can rely on new hero Griffiths

After securing a domestic double of silverware last season, Celtic, under the reign of Norwegian boss Ronny Deila, have faltered somewhat this current campaign but, as things get back on track, the Hoops have one man in particular to thank.

Soccer - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership - Aberdeen v Celtic - Pittodrie Stadium

Scotland’s very own Leigh Griffiths has been a revelation for the Bhoys since arriving at Parkhead in January 2014, making his mark on the club with an abundance of crucial goals on all fronts.

Now, following two-and-a-half seasons in the famous green and white, Griffiths has earned himself an early Celtic milestone, incredibly reaching the 50-goal mark in current surroundings for a side that are 5/6 with Coral to lift the Scottish FA Cup this term.

Having made his sparkling debut as a 16-year-old at Livingston, Griffiths then learnt his trade with top-flight outfit Dundee before making an early career switch to England to join Wolves. A Hibernian loan followed before eventually arriving in Glasgow, where the Hoops faithful, as well as Celtic coach Deila, will hope he remains for many years to come, as he targets further silverware and personal success.

Griffiths gunning for Hoops history books

With such truly esteemed forwards like Jimmy McGrory, John Hartson, Henrik Larsson and Kenny Dalglish, all of whom are Bhoys icons, having donned the green hoops of Glasgow and displayed their astute attacking talents, it perfectly highlights Griffiths’ accomplishment of becoming the fastest player in their history to reach a half century of goals.

Griffiths_Old_Firm_goal

With another brilliant brace over Dundee United in a recent outing, Griffiths reached that remarkable landmark to sum up his individual importance to Deila’s set-up, and the Scotland international is now seeking to emulate past goal scoring heroes, but knows he has a lot more work to do.

“To score 50 goals at any club is special, but to get it at a massive club like Celtic is a great achievement for myself,” stated Griffiths.

“To get mentioned in the same breath as Henrik Larrson and Charlie Nicholas is great, but I’ve still got a long way to go to be classed as a legend at this club. I’ll just keep my head down and keep working hard.

“Henrik was one of the greatest players to ever play for Celtic. If I’m half as good as him I’ll be happy.”

Leading light Griffiths on road to silverware

Griffiths initially found himself down the pecking order under Deila at Celtic, with former Manchester City loanee John Guidetti and now loaned out Anthony Stokes preferred ahead of him. But the Scot knuckled down to discover a deadly run of form which he has impressively maintained to keep his side fighting for success on all Scottish fronts.

Dundee United v Celtic - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership - Tannadice Park

The campaign begun a little underwhelmingly for the reigning Scottish Premiership and League Cup champions, suffering a string of under-par results which led to immense speculation surrounding the club’s determined boss.

Though, despite previous domestic falterings and a European nightmare, Deila still remains at the Parkhead helm, with his in-form frontman Griffiths arguably a huge factor in his job security.

The Scot is swiftly closing in on 30 goals for campaign, despite there being many months of action left to play, with a clinical hat-trick in an earlier 8-1 demolition of Hamilton taking his seasonal tally to 27 strikes in 32 club appearances since July.

Such a run, which includes nine in five outings between November and January, is setting Celtic well on course for further accolades this term, despite proceedings having looked bleak previously. The heroics of their leading light Griffiths is edging the dominant Glasgow outfit closer to a fifth successive league crown (odds-on 1/100) and a successful League Cup defence (1/2).

National stardom sought by Hoops hero

Despite the incredible club goal scoring exploits of this 25-year-old marksman, Scotland international manager Gordan Strachan continued to overlook the striker during his nation’s ultimately failed Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

Soccer - International Friendly - Scotland v Qatar - Scotland Training and Press Conference - Mar Hall

The Scots looked to be in a solid position to secure a place in France for this upcoming summer, but their hopes were disappointedly dashed at the death, with Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland instead clinching a play-off spot and eventually reaching the coveted finals. Having qualified ahead of their Celtic rivals, the Irish are 15/2 to win Group E which features Belgium, Italy and Sweden.

Griffiths struggled to gain international minutes during qualifying but, after reaching 50 goals for Celtic, he hopes his recent achievements will propel him into the Scotland line-up on a more regular basis.

“That’s the next step. I want to keep working hard and hopefully the goals still come for Celtic,” he said.

“I can’t do any more than that. When the games come up for Scotland if I’m picked I’ll be delighted, but if not I’ll wait my turn and when I get it I need to take it with both hands.”

European exploits required for true hero status

Ask any Celtic fan what has been most disappointing about their team’s season so far and most will highlight their woeful European quest, with the Bhoys’ failed Champions League play-offs seeing them enter the Europa League group stages, which also ended disastrously.

Soccer - UEFA Europa League - Group A - Ajax v Celtic - Amsterdam ArenA

Past club heroes such as Larsson became so highly regarded within Parkhead, not only for their domestic duties and countless heroics against Old Firm rivals Rangers, but for their impact on European competitions too.

Former Sweden striker Larsson was part of that famous 2003 squad which reached the UEFA Cup final at the Estadio Olimpico de Sevilla, where they were agonisingly overcome by Portuguese giants Porto in extra-time.

Larsson feats the pinnacle aim

Larsson was on course to have fired Celtic to an amazing European triumph under the guidance of former coach O’Neill that season, 36 years after their maiden European Cup coup, and clinch the Golden Boot until Derlei struck in extra-time to take both team and personal honours.

Celtic v Glasgow Rangers - Henrik Larsson

For the Hoops’ latest hitman Griffiths, that is the standard in which he must reach to truly be recognised alongside the greats, as well as maintaining his constant flow of goals in all competitions. The aforementioned Swede finished his Celtic career with 242 in 315 games to cement himself as a club legend, with a best single season tally being an immense 53 in 2001.

There’s no doubt Griffiths has the talent and passion to thrive at Celtic for many more seasons and, having already tested himself in England, club icon status awaits the talented Scot if he commits to a long-term future in ‘Paradise’.

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