During the winter break, John Hughes predicted Leigh Griffiths would emerge as Celtic’s star man in the second half of the campaign.
Hughes was certain the Parkhead striker could get back to top form after being out for lengthy spells with mental health issues.
How right he was.
Griffiths scored eight goals in 13 games since the turn of the year as Celtic pulled away from Rangers in their quest for nine-in-a-row and a quadruple Treble.
That surge has been put on hold by football’s lockdown.
But Hughes is confident Griffiths will continue his fine run of form when life gets back to normal, and that the lay-off will not have an adverse effect on the 29-year-old.
The former Hibs, Inverness Caley Thistle and Falkirk manager told The Sunday Post: “Perhaps one or two eyebrows were raised when I made those comments, but I was confident.
“Leigh had well-documented problems off the pitch to contend with, as well as a niggling calf injury.
“He just needed to get some good training sessions under his belt, build up a level of fitness and then find a rhythm.
“His ability to find the net has never been questioned. He just needed to fine tune other aspects of his game.
“So he had a good winter training camp in Dubai, and must have made a good impression on Neil Lennon.
“He was straight into the team after that for the Scottish Cup tie at Partick Thistle.
“Leigh scored that night and hasn’t looked back. He has scored some right good goals, including a hat-trick against St Mirren in Celtic’s last game before lockdown.
“You could tell he was back in love with the game, and looked confident of scoring every time he pulled on his boots.
“So now being at a standstill will probably have frustrated Leigh more than most.
“He just needs to make sure he is in the best possible condition when the season gets started again, whether that be in June, July, August or whenever.”
Having lost 2-1 at home to Rangers on December 29, during the January window there was a pressure on Celtic to buy a striker as competition for Odsonne Edouard.
Patryk Klimala was brought in for £3-million from Polish side Jagiellonia, but has hardly been given a sniff due to the Frenchman’s partnership with Griffiths.
Hughes said: “Celtic need to strengthen in every transfer window.
“Klimala is just 21 and still learning his trade. He is one for the future.
“The fact Leigh and Odsonne Edouard have developed this lovely partnership means Patryk can develop without having massive pressure on his shoulders.
“It’s also good for a manager to have experienced players like Leigh and Odsonne.
“Neil can go into every game with the feeling that his team is good for two or three goals.
“It gives the Celtic team a formidable look.”
While Falkirk manager, Hughes signed Griffiths from Leith Athletic around 15 years ago, but they had to release him.
‘Yogi’ recalled: “I was tipped off about Leigh by a friend.
“I went to see him in action, and Leigh reminded me of myself when I was a kid as he was fiery.
“The first time I saw him, he was nearly fighting with one of his own team-mates! I didn’t mind that – but he also had talent.
“I spoke to him after the game, and told him he needed to calm down a wee bit.
“We signed him for Falkirk, and put him in the youth system. But he missed some training sessions and we had to let him go.
“Thankfully, it didn’t do him any harm.
“He has gone on to have a wonderful career and there is still plenty more to come.”
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