Hitman Griffiths has his sights on double-figure Celtic target

HAVING banged in four goals in his first four starts as a Celt, and after spending his final few months at Wolves banished to the bench, you could forgive Leigh Griffiths for wishing this season had much longer than 10 games to run.

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Leigh Griffiths has a laugh with BT Sport commentator Gary McAllister as they promote the channel's live Friday night coverage of Kilmarnock against Celtic at Rugby Park
Leigh Griffiths has a laugh with BT Sport commentator Gary McAllister as they promote the channel's live Friday night coverage of Kilmarnock against Celtic at Rugby Park

However, the Hoops striker is already looking forward to some R&R, hopefully having signed off by playing his part in the Scotland v Nigeria friendly at Craven Cottage on May 28.

The maelstrom in which the 23-year-old has been swept along in the past six weeks - bagging his big move to Parkhead, then winning a recall to Gordon Strachan's squad for last week's match in Poland - has all but taken his breath away.

While he is loving every minute of it, he is looking forward to getting the opportunity to recharge his batteries and then returning for his first pre-season with his new club.

With the Champions League qualifiers first up in mid-July and Scotland kicking off their European Championship qualifiers in September, it promises to be a massive season for the hitman.

Before he swaps the football boots for flip flops, of course, he has the little matter of helping the Hoops clinch the SPFL Premiership crown.

To ensure he qualifies for a medal, he needs to play in nine of Celtic's remaining matches.

Given the form he has shown since making his first start in the 3-0 defeat of St Johnstone less than four weeks ago, Lennon is highly unlikely to omit him from his line-up.

And Griffiths' infectious enthusiasm will ensure he keeps going all the way to the line.

He said: "I don't worry that the season is coming to an end too soon for me. I have been here for over a month now and there is another good two-and-a-bit months still to go this season.

"I'm looking forward to every game we have between now and then and I am just trying to keep myself in the team and scoring goals."

Although he was a key provider in Anthony Stokes scoring a hat-trick the first time the pair started a game together, Griffiths understands that putting the ball in the net is what he has been brought to Celtic to do.

Thankfully, it just happens to be what he does best, and he is already well on his way to reaching the double- figures target he set himself immediately after firing in what was only his second career hat-trick in the match against Inverness when Celtic last played.

There is a confidence about the way he talks, and the way he plays, which dares you to even consider he will not achieve his goal. And, although he is just in the door at Celtic Park, Griffiths' ambition extends well beyond its walls.

The recall to the Scotland squad for last week's game in Warsaw, as a replacement for Robert Snodgrass, was the first step in the what he hopes will be his reintegration into Strachan's plans.

Griffiths did not get any further than the bench during the win over the Poles. His only two starts for his country were awarded by Strachan, and he was bitterly disappointed not to be part of his plans for the friendly double-header against the United States and Norway in November.

But the little man with the big eye for goals refuses to dwell on the past. The future is much too exciting to waste time on that.

HE said: "Hopefully, I can also get myself back into the starting line-up again with Scotland.

"I know I have got a lot of competition for a place. But if I am doing well at club level, then I have got to give the national team manager food for thought."

The biggest obstacle to Griffiths' achieving his ambition of starting more games for his country is the system which Strachan has decided he wants go with into the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

It has room for only one man up front. And the qualities required to fit into this game plan are not necessarily the ones which make Griffiths the potent threat he is in a club line-up which, except on rare occasions, deploys a twin strike force.

Nevertheless, he is determined to force himself into Strachan's consciousness, and knows the best way to do that is to appear on the list of scorers as often as possible.

Griffiths did not feel there was any need for the two men to have a chat during last week's international get- together.

THEY are both comfortable with the situation, and he said: "I can understand why I wasn't in the squad in November, because I had not been playing regularly for Wolves at that point.

"But now I have got myself back playing every week. I felt I was unfortunate not to get on last week in Poland. But there is another friendly coming up quickly.

"Hopefully, if I can do well for Celtic between now and then, I can be involved in that one and show what I can do."

That friendly against Nigeria in London at the end of May is Strachan's final chance to fine-tune his plans for the opening qualifier, against Germany, in the autumn.

The Super Eagles will be touching down en route to the World Cup finals in Brazil.

If he can win a place in the Scotland side, Griffiths will come up close and personal with his Celtic team-mate, Efe Ambrose.

The dogged little striker would relish the challenge of getting the better of the defender, but acknowledges it is going to be a big ask for Scotland to extend their winning run to three matches.

Speaking as he helped promote BT Sports' live coverage of Friday's game at Rugby Park, he said: "Nigeria are a tough opponent. They are going to the World Cup finals and are African Cup of Nations champions.

"So we know we face a stiff test, but it's one everyone is looking forward to after getting the results we have recently."

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