The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Griffiths dedicates sublime brace against Auld Enemy to son watching on his birthday
LEIGH GRIFFITHS last night dedicated his Hampden heroics to his son, Jacob, who celebrated his fourth birthday by watching his father write the family name into Tartan Army folklore.
With two sumptuous swipes of his left boot, Griffiths fired a magnificent brace of free-kicks to finally break his duck in a Scotland jersey.
Arriving in the 87th and 90th minutes, the striker looked to have dragged the Scots off the canvas after substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had put England into a 70th-minute lead.
But, with the most improbable of victories within the grasp of Gordon Strachan’s men, England
captain Harry Kane struck in the 93rd minute to deny Scotland what would have been their first triumph over the Auld Enemy at Hampden since 1985.
The story might never have been told, however, with Griffiths revealing that one of his team-mates had tried to take the ball from him prior to the first free-kick.
‘It was my wee boy Jacob’s fourth birthday today, so I can give him his cake now and tuck him into bed tonight,’ said Griffiths.
‘My mates were in Ibiza watching the game. I spoke to a couple before the game, wishing me well, and I got a few messages afterwards saying the Highlander pub in Ibiza went absolutely nuts.
‘It’s probably one of my best feelings in football when that second goal went in and that’s why I did half a lap of Hampden in celebration.
‘I would have jumped in the crowd. I got carried away a bit and, when the boys grabbed me, I just wanted everyone to savour the moment.
‘It’s mixed emotions. I’m happy but also devastated for the rest of the lads.
‘In the end, I think it could be a valuable point for us.
‘I feel like knocking myself out and cracking the bottle of champagne for man of the match over my head!
‘Charlie (Mulgrew) fancied taking the first free-kick but I said I wanted it. He said to me to just get it on target and see what I can do.
‘At the second one, he gave me a wee pep talk and just said: “You’ve done it once, now go and do it again”.
‘As soon as I bent it round the wall, I knew the second one was in — I was already away celebrating.
‘I don’t want to be remembered as a national hero, just by being in a team that got three points against England. It wasn’t to be but we did get one valuable one.’
Mulgrew, renowned as a dead-ball specialist during his time at Celtic, admitted about his former Parkhead team-mate: ‘I did want to take it but, after he had scored the first, there was no way I could take the second one off him.
‘We are just gutted. It could have been the greatest night of all of our careers if we had held on to win, but it just wasn’t to be.’
With four games remaining in Group F, Scotland will play Lithuania and Malta in September before concluding their campaign with a double-header against Slovakia and Slovenia in October.
They still face an uphill battle if they are to reach the World Cup in Russia but Griffiths added on the future of Strachan: ‘There’s no question of the manager resigning or losing his job. He’s the right man and I think you can see from our last two performances that we’re all going to put our heart and soul into the games.’