November 6th is a special day in Celtic history. In 1887 it was the day that Celtic were founded and everything to do with the club began to take shape in time for the club’s very first game the following May.
But in 2005 it was also a special day for John Hartson.
Midway through the second half, already 2-0 up away to Falkirk in an SPL match, he tapped home a rebound after Shaun Maloney’s initial effort had been saved by goalkeeper Matt Glennon.
It wasn’t the best goal big bad John would score in his time at Celtic, but it was a special landmark in his Celtic career. That goal was his 100th for Celtic, meaning the Welshman joined just 27 other Celtic players to have scored a century of goals in the entire history of the club.
Hartson had, of course, played along side one of those 27. Hartson’s century came just eighteen months after Henrik Larsson had scored his 241st and 242nd goals for Celtic in the Scottish Cup final against Dunfermline Athletic. Larsson is Celtic’s third top scorer, with only Bobby Lennox and Jimmy McGrory having scored more.
I suppose it’s only fitting then that the 29th and newest entry to the Celtic century club should come on the day of the Buzzbomb’s 75th birthday.
Leigh Griffiths has been threatening to join this club for a while. After scoring forty goals under Ronny Deila, it has probably come a little later than he might have hoped. But since Brendan Rodgers came to Celtic we’ve been a lot less reliant on him than we were in that particular season.
When that goal came against Suduva on Thursday night, it might have been something of a relief. For Leigh, it’s been tantalisingly close for a while. For Celtic, that goal settled us in a stuffy European performance.
It was a special moment that was fittingly completed with a special free kick. And unlike Hartson or Larsson before him, Leigh was able to do it in front of a crowd at Celtic Park. Not since Charlie Nicholas in 1991 has a century been achieved at home.
I’m sure Leigh will have many more personal goals set, but it will be interesting to see if he can kick on from here once more and start to work his way up the all time scorers chart. Immediately above him is John Divers on 101, while his immediate predecessor Hartson only managed another ten goals after his century and sits in 22nd place. Bobby Collins and Johnny Campbell at the target to break into the top twenty, both of whom managed 117 goals in their Celtic careers.
It’s only the end of August. With a long season ahead, one of our three strikers having left under a cloud with no replacement, is another 17 goals unrealistic for this season? I wouldn’t have thought so, but you never know what can happen with form and injuries and other players. Hopefully he and Edouard can stay fit, it’s not like we have many other options! Even Jack Aitchison is away out on loan now!
If Leigh really has ambition, he could aim to join the five Celtic men who have managed to do it again! As well as the aforementioned McGrory, Lennox and Larsson, Stevie Chalmers and Jimmy Quinn also joined the 200 club.
Of course, only the incomparable Jimmy McGrory hit 300. And 400 for that matter. I doubt we’ll ever see anyone come anywhere close to that.
In an era when players do frequently come and go, as has been demonstrated perfectly this week, to even be around long enough to score 100 goals for the club is unusual now. Given some of the issues that Leigh had when he first arrived at the club, I think it only fair to give him all the credit for knuckling down and letting his record so the talking.
So congratulations Leigh Griffiths, this is a tremendous achievement and one that will never be taken away from you. May your goalscoring feats for Celtic continue for many years to come.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)