Pat Fenlon today insisted the next Scotland boss won’t be able to ignore Leigh Griffiths’ claim for full international honours if he keeps knocking in the goals for Hibs.
Griffiths currently tops the SPL goal-scoring charts having hit the net 11 times for the Easter Road outfit, six of them having come in his last four games as Fenlon’s players have gone joint top of the table on points with champions Celtic, who have their noses out in front on goal difference.
However, the 22-year-old’s name was missing when Billy Stark named the squad which will travel to Luxembourg for a friendly next week. Stark is in temporary charge of the national side following the sacking of Craig Levein in the wake of a miserable start to Scotland’s World Cup qualifying campaign.
But the Hibs boss firmly believes it is only a matter of time before Griffiths gets the call. He said: “What I have told Leigh is to keep playing and scoring goals. I’m not going to tell Scotland who they should pick. I looked at the squad that was named and it is a decent squad.
“Leigh will get his opportunity. I firmly believe if he is playing the way he is and maturing the way he has then it will happen for him eventually. It depends on managers, doesn’t it? Even back home you wonder why certain players are not picked.
“We all have different opinions and on Sunday [against Dundee United] there will be ten or 11,000 asking why did I pick a certain player. We all see things differently but if Leigh is playing well it might force people’s hands a little bit quicker. All he can do is concentrate on his own form.
“I would love to see it happen for him. He is infectious, a fantastic player with a fabulous attitude.
His overall contribution to the team is first-class, his work-rate for the team as well as being a goalscorer.
Griffiths, on loan from English Championship outfit Wolves for a third spell in Edinburgh, has already scored as many goals this season as he did in the last campaign, a fact Fenlon puts down to him now being the “main man” at Easter Road having stepped out of the shadow of the now departed Garry O’Connor.
He said: “Garry had been a big player for the club over the years and scored a lot of goals for us last year. People were asking how are you going to replace those goals but Leigh has stepped up to the mantle.
“Maybe he was in the shadow a little bit last year but he has stepped up and taken that on board which for a young boy of his age is a great achievement.”
Fenlon admitted, however, Griffiths being overlooked by Scotland at the moment might work in Hibs’ favour at a time when the Capital club, well aware his scoring record is
already attracting attention from elsewhere, are working hard behind the scenes to strike an agreement with Wolves to extend his stay beyond January.
Meanwhile, Fenlon insists he’s taken little notice of the
latest financial turmoil to hit Capital rivals Hearts, who are due at Easter Road for a
Scottish Cup fourth-round tie at the beginning of next month if they can overcome the threat of going bust by the end of next week.
He said: “I’ve tried to stay away from it as I can’t affect what goes on elsewhere. I do not really have any thoughts on it. I have a massive job here trying to change things round and that’s my focus.”