The Scottish Mail on Sunday

DADDY COOL

Grif­fiths ded­i­cates sub­lime brace against Auld En­emy to son watch­ing on his birthday

- By Calum Crowe

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.’

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