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Griffiths can fill role vacated by Hooper

'GALLUS" was how Neil Lennon described Leigh Griffiths, a sign that the Celtic manager has been living in Glasgow for so long that he has started to pick up the lingo.

Leigh Griffiths said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play for Celtic but that he would still 'be a Hibee for as long as I live'. Picture: David Moir/Reuters
Leigh Griffiths said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play for Celtic but that he would still 'be a Hibee for as long as I live'. Picture: David Moir/Reuters

The recruitment of the Wolverhampton Wanderers forward on a four-year contract would, frustratingly for Lennon, prove to be his only bit of incoming business on transfer deadline day but it was a player he feels will substantially enhance his squad for the many challenges ahead.

Griffiths' scoring record in Scottish football is impressive, especially last season with Hibernian when he bagged 28 goals and almost single-handedly dragged Pat Fenlon's team to the Scottish Cup final. Lennon considered making a move for the 23-year-old last summer only to be sidetracked by the on-off transfer saga surrounding Gary Hooper. This time, though, he made sure he got his man, the striker passing a medical yesterday before being paraded as a Celtic player as darkness fell. His registration did not go through in time, though, for him to face St Mirren tomorrow.

Celtic do not need another striker to satisfy their domestic demands this season but need to upholster their squad if they are to make it through the hazardous Champions League qualifying rounds in the summer. Griffiths has never played in European competition, making it impossible to say with any certainty how he will cope with that challenge.

Lennon, with typical candour, believes there are certain aspects of the striker's game that can yet be improved but also that his mobility and movement, in particular, should see him adapt well to the step up. Neither Scott McDonald nor Hooper had a particularly glamorous hinterland before arriving at Celtic but both made an impact in Europe. Lennon is confident that Griffiths can do the same.

"He's certainly mobile and his work ethic is very good," said the Celtic manager. "He's a pretty fit boy. He could do with a little bit more upper body strength and we'll have a look at that between now and the summer. Strength and mental strength is maybe something we'll need to look at too. But I think he's got the mobility and movement to play at Champions League level. We've had him watched a couple of times and we've been pretty pleased with what we've seen. So we're hoping he hits the ground running. We've been looking for a consistent scorer since Gary Hooper left and I think Leigh fits the bill."

News of Griffiths' pending arrival was not exactly afforded a wholehearted welcome by some among the Celtic support. In some cases, the apathy was perhaps down to the fact that the transfer was not particularly glamorous, not the multi-million pound foreign striker that some had been holding out hope for. For others, there was disquiet about Griffiths' chequered off-field past, his various run-ins with the law, and a general perception - accurate or otherwise - that this was a lad seemingly forever drawn to trouble. Lennon admitted he had an admiration for players with a bit of mischief about them, but revealed he had already had a quiet word in Griffiths' ear about the responsibilities that came with signing for a club of Celtic's ilk.

"Sometimes you prefer them that way with a wee bit of personality about them," he added. "I like the gallus players anyway. He's certainly got a gallus nature on the pitch although I don't think he's ill-disciplined or anything like that when he plays. I spoke to him about his responsibilities as a Celtic player and to be wary of things away from the park. We'll look after him here all that we can and I don't think he'll have a problem adapting to the way we play. Now he's at a big club he's got to get used to the intensity of playing for Celtic and the public perception of him.

"He just needs to change people's views and he can do that through his football first and foremost. I don't think people should judge him on his past but on his football ability. It's up to me then to manage all the other stuff that comes with it. I'm quite looking forward to that. He's not a bad boy, not a bad kid at all."

As one striker was moving in, another was being shipped out. It is difficult to describe Mo Bangura's time at Celtic as anything other than disastrous, the £2m spent on the striker returning not a single goal.

The club gave up on their big investment yesterday, electing to release the striker. "It's a sore one," added Lennon. "He looked a really good player in Sweden. But we couldn't get the best out of him for one reason or another. You soon know if things are going to work out or not. It's very disappointing for both parties."

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