30-goal Leigh Griffiths tells Celtic's rival to '˜Come ahead'

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths threw down the gauntlet to any would-be challengers as he turned his attention to trying to win a sixth successive league title with Celtic.
Celtic's Leigh Griffiths has now scored 30 league goals this season. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNSCeltic's Leigh Griffiths has now scored 30 league goals this season. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Celtic's Leigh Griffiths has now scored 30 league goals this season. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

The Parkhead side all but wrapped up five in a row, with a 3-1 victory over Hearts at Tynecastle yesterday. With three matches remaining, it leaves them nine points clear with a vastly superior goal difference. But, accepting that the task could be tougher next term as other teams try to chase them down, the 25-year-old multiple player of the year nominee had a simple message for anyone with such ambitions: “Come ahead!”.

“The league doesn’t lie,” said the striker, who weighed in with his 30th league goal of the term, edging ever closer to the 35 goal mark of record holders Henrik Larsson and Brian McClair. “Over the course of the season we haven’t played our best at times but we have dug in and got results. At the end of the season whoever are top of the league are worthy champions.

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“We were disappointing against Rangers [in the Scottish Cup semi-final] and everybody said our bubble was burst but to come to a venue like this and dominate speaks volumes.

“Everybody will improve next season; we will improve, I’m sure Aberdeen will strengthen their squad, Hearts will strengthen their squad, Rangers coming up can only benefit the league and Hibs could still come up as well, so the league will be stronger but we will hopefully be champions at the end of next season and that will be six.”

But while Rangers bettered them in a one-off head to head, he warned that other teams have tried and failed to maintain the pace over the course of a 38-game campaign. The test, he said is whether the Ibrox side, or anyone else, has the calibre, the depth of squad, and the stamina to wrestle the Premiership trophy away from them next season.

“You never know. Like I said, I expect they will strengthen their squad and bring in players. It will be up to them what they do but myself and my team-mates will concentrate on ourselves and hopefully we can make it six titles next season. They [Rangers] have had a couple of bad results since the won the league and OK they beat us and managed to do that on penalties so that was disappointing for us. But they went through and we congratulate them but next season will be a different ball game altogether.”

Having won over his manager Ronny Deila to emerge from the fringes to become an integral part of this season’s success, Griffiths said he was happy for the departing gaffer. “He deserves this. He has been nothing but positive even when things weren’t going our way. He always tried to look on the bright side and this game typifies that.”

His team were already leading when he added the third goal with five minutes remaining, the nutmeg and goal the perfect response to a coming together with Hearts’ John Souttar moments earlier, which saw both men picking up a yellow card.

“I asked the ref what I got booked for and he said I was overly aggressive but you can quite clearly see on TV that I have stood still and he was the one grabbing me. But we move on and I am happy to take a booking and then score a goal and get the three points.”