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Advice from one bad boy to another: 'just settle down . . .'

HE had the grace to chuckle.

McAvennie does not believe that Leigh Griffiths is the out and out goalscorer that Celtic require. Picture: SNS
McAvennie does not believe that Leigh Griffiths is the out and out goalscorer that Celtic require. Picture: SNS

The reaction came after Frank McAvennie was asked if had any advice for Leigh Griffiths, the latest 'bad Bhoy' to follow in Macca's sometimes lurid footsteps. This is akin to asking Captain Hook for advice on juggling.

McAvennie is famous for being part of the Celtic centenary double-winning side but is also not unknown for various excesses that include a folio of Page Three girls and an aptitude for being referred to not only as a striker but as the accused.

He played more than 80 times for Celtic, a figure that may match the number of times he was fined by the club, most regularly for his late returns from a weekend carousing in London.

Griffiths, who has also courted controversy, has joined Celtic from Wolverhampton Wanderers for £800,000 in the transfer window and McAvennie, now 54, had the benefit of gaudy 1980s experience to pass on.

"I would say to him: 'just settle down'. And just take it in because it is hard when you are there but when you leave the club you realise how big it is. He should enjoy it, he is here and the supporters will give him a chance because he is a good player," said McAvennie, who was helping to launch the Celtic Former Players' Association.

An admirer of Griffiths' talent, McAvennie is not convinced he is what Celtic need for the rigours that lie beyond an inevitable title win.

"It might sound like he is not the player I wanted - he's a great addition to the squad - but I'd like to see an out and out striker, a poacher coming in. I see a lot of chances and a poacher would put them in every week," said McAvennie, who was spectacularly successful with that sort of player in Tony Cottee at West Ham United.

"He has not been bought to win the league because the league is won," he said of Griffiths. "He is a helluva a player and he will create chances for other players, he will link up and he will score great goals. You can't not like him but I still think Lenny needs a poacher."

He was dismissive of the contributions of Teemu Pukki and Amido Balde and hardly optimistic about their futures in Glasgow. "I am a great believer that when you come into a club you know right away whether you can make it," he said. "You should hit the ground running. I may be wrong - I hope I am - but I do not think Balde and Pukki are going to make it. I think they will be shipped on."

His enthusiasm for Celtic to sign a poacher included a reference to the Rangers manager, saying the club needed someone "a bit like Coisty".

McAvennie also called on Celtic to explain why Griffiths was the only major striking recruit in the window. "The club, Lenny and Peter [Lawwell, chief executive] have to come out and say they tried to buy players but, for whatever reason, they decided not to come. He said £800,000 was 'a great price' for Griffiths but fans think they have been shortchanged which is not the case."

McAvennie is a firm believer that Griffiths is not a "pure goalscorer" though the Scotland internationalist has a record of one goal every two games for Hibs, Livingston, Dundee, and Wolves and has the potential for improvement at the age of 23.

However, McAvennie, who enjoyed two spells at Celtic from 1987-89 and from 1992-94, said: "I would like them to sign another striker. I would have liked them to get one in January because then you have a few months to bed in and get used to the players."

He has no fears, though, about Lennon's ability to manage his most recent signing. "Lenny will know how to handle Leigh. Once you walk in that door you realise it is a massive club. I was a Celtic supporter so I knew what it was like but when you walk in that door it's like history smacking you in the face," he said.

McAvennie warned his successor in a Celtic shirt that the scrutiny on him would be intense. "The biggest problem Leigh is going to have is that everywhere he goes he will be noticed. When he was at Hibs, he could hide but he can't do that here," he said in reference to off-field life.

McAvennie, of course, had an escape route from such problems. He flew down to London after matches to be with his model girlfriend but his belated returns raised the ire of Billy McNeill, the manager. "That was all to do with British Airways, the flights were terrible," he said with another grin over his arrivals back in the city on the Tuesday rather than the Monday.

Griffiths may or may not heed Macca's advice on the experience awaiting him at Celtic. He would do well, though, not to consult him on travel plans.

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