Brendan Rodgers today used his post-match press conference to pay tribute to Leigh Griffiths’ hard work in training these last few weeks. This is good news for everyone at the club, and for Leigh in particular. It means he’s paid heed to what the manager has to say. It means he’s dedicating himself like never before. This is fantastic.
A few weeks ago, I did a piece on those players who could have had great careers at Celtic Park but went on to blow it; I didn’t want Leigh Griffiths to be one of them, to look back in later years with regrets at having missed out on the opportunity to be part of something special.
I think he’s a better footballer than the guys who were in that piece; Islam Feruz, Liam Miller, Tony Watt and Derek Riordan. He is certainly a more potent goal-scorer. It would have been tragic for both player and club if he didn’t pay attention to what Brendan had to say.
Leigh is a guy who listens to those around him; if he wasn’t he wouldn’t be at Parkhead right now, as Ronny didn’t fancy him and forced him to change his game. He did so, buckling down to the hard graft, and you saw the results in his play.
He flourished in Ronny’s second season, becoming the lynchpin of almost everything we did.
It says a lot for Moussa’s ability that he so quickly proved that he deserved to be starting in front of Leigh; few now doubt that decision. But this doesn’t mean Leigh is automatically out of Brendan’s plans. If he can adapt his game to playing out wide – which Brendan clearly wants him to do – he can be a vital cog in the wheel for next season and the remainder of this one.
That Brendan has moved to publicly praise him today is an excellent sign; everyone at Celtic Park is on the same page, that the club comes first, that only by working together, and as hard as they can, will we continue to improve.
This should scare those who think of themselves as potential challengers; no side in the country would have a guy as good as Leigh Griffiths on the bench. It speaks volumes for his loyalty that he’s not caused a stink and it speaks even louder to our strength in depth that he’s not already found a berth in the line-up in spite of Brendan’s formation.
But you can see the threads of the manager’s thinking when you consider how good Sinclair-Dembele-Griffiths would be, and how terrifying for the rest.
We may see it yet. Leigh’s new-found focus offers us enormous encouragement.
He won’t be fit for the weekend but he will be back in the starting line-up before long.