Three months ago, I was sitting in the press box at Hampden Park watching Pat Fenlon’s Hibernian being humiliated 5-1 by rivals Hearts in a Scottish Cup final massacre.
As the triumphant Jambos players celebrated on the pitch after the match, I made my way backstage to catch a word with the Hibs players for the camera. As a reporter, trying to get a quote from a player who has just been trounced 5-1 in a cup final is never going to be an easy job, and that’s how it turned out on this occasion. One by one, the players slinked by and made a bee-line for the exits, shunning the microphone.
Eventually, diminutive Irish striker Eoin Doyle stopped briefly to mumble something about it not being their day and looking forward to next season. He was a thoroughly nice bloke, as it happens, but I couldn’t help wondering whether he might be a slightly better football player were he just a little bit more of a firebrand.
But then came the moment we had all been waiting for. Tearaway striker Leigh Griffiths, visibly raging (even more so than usual) and coiled like a spring ready to explode at the slightest provocation, came steaming towards us.
Hibs are 21/20 to score on Saturday, and I think with Leigh Griffiths firing on all cylinders this could be a decent bet. It looks even tastier when you consider that Hibs have scored on six of their last seven visits to Glasgow’s East End.
For those of you who don’t know him, Leigh Griffiths is like the anti-Eoin Doyle. Moody, sullen, uppity, rude – a reporter’s dream. And what’s more, Griffiths was due to head back down south to parent club Wolves after the game, so he clearly had no reason to hold back now. He was bound to give us some cracking quotes!
Needless to say, he didn’t disappoint. The man who was banned three times in six months for making rude gestures towards fans – on one occasion even his own – let rip with a tirade of biblical proportions, focusing primarily on the referee and his apparent incompetence. It was gold dust.
As he delivered his final parting shot to the Scottish media and left the room, we all shared a chuckle. What a character. In a strange way we’ll miss him, we agreed.
Little did we know then that just a few months later, our man Griffiths would be back at Hibs for a second spell, only this time, we would be writing about him for all the right reasons.
Griffiths insists his bad-boy days are over. Three goals in four games led Hibs captain James McPake to call his role in the team “massive” and prompted manager Pat Fenlon to tout him for a Scotland call.
As if all that wasn’t strange enough, the same Hibs side who slumped so pathetically to defeat at Hampden in May now sit joint top of the SPL after three games and head to Celtic Park on Saturday for a top-of-the-table clash with the champions on the back of two straight wins.
At the very least, they will be hoping to improve on last season’s shocking record against Lennon’s men, when they failed to even score a goal in any of their three SPL encounters.
Hibs are 21/20 to score on Saturday, and I think with Griffiths firing on all cylinders this could be a decent bet. It looks even tastier when you consider that Hibs have scored on six of their last seven visits to Glasgow’s East End, but in order to make a decent return out of this one you will have to take a chance with a reasonably sized stake.
For this reason, I am recommending that new customers to bwin use their free £20 bet to back Hibs to score – an outcome that will return £41 if successful. Alternatively, you can back my mate Griffiths to be the man to deliver that goal at the longer price of 7/2.
As for the result itself, I still expect Celtic to win and so do the bookies, but at odds of 9/1 on a Hibs victory and 9/2 on a draw, I have no doubt whatsoever that there will be plenty of punters out there who fancy taking a chance on the visitors.
Bwin have Celtic at 11/50 to take all three points, while they are 13/20 to be winning at both half time and full time, and 11/50 to score the first goal.
The real story here though could be Mr Griffiths and his apparent redemption.
Those of us who know the guy will realise that it will take more than a few weeks to convince us that he really is a changed man, but a goal on Saturday will certainly help his cause.
Follow us on Twitter @bwin