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Griffiths plays way back into McLeish’s good books

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers confirmed Griffiths will take time out of football.
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers confirmed Griffiths will take time out of football.

Scotland manager Alex McLeish is pleased to see striker Leigh Griffiths respond to being dropped from the national team’s starting 11 by hitting the goal trail with Celtic.

The Hoops forward expressed his dismay at being dropped from the line-up for the 2-0 win against Albania in the Uefa Nations League last month but has responded to his omission by scoring in three games in a row for his club.

Griffiths has been selected for the squad for the games against Israel in the Nations League next Thursday and the friendly against Portugal along with Johnny Russell, Oli McBurnie and Steven Naismith, who scored in the Hampden win last month.

McLeish said: “Leigh has done his talking on the field and that’s all I can ask for. The last press conference we questioned where are we going to get a goal from. Now Leigh is firing the goals in and Oli has been in decent form.

“McBurnie has been injured as well. He had a good spell before the injury and we picked him for the last squad. He has come back to the team and it’s good to get him back in the squad. It would be great to see him get off the mark in a Scotland jersey but as we saw with the world champions sometimes the centre-forward doesn’t have to score.

“What I took from Leigh’s comments was the positive ending of him saying he needs to get himself noticed and he has scored three games in a row for Celtic.

“I want to have to make difficult decisions. Somebody said to me Steven Naismith is guaranteed to play in the next game but that is not the case. He is in good form but so too is Griffiths and McBurnie, which augurs well.”

Griffiths claimed he had been told Naismith’s goal had cemented his place in the starting line-up for the trip to Israel but McLeish insists that is not the case.

He said: “I’ve never said to a player your place is guaranteed. You always have to earn it and go through your whole career needing to prove yourself every week. In international football I’m a professional supporter who goes to see if guys are in the groove, do they have the rhythm and is the body language good and I’m pleased to say it is.

“It’s not inconceivable they could play together depending on the formation we choose. They are definitely in good form and it gives me a dilemma, a happy problem.”

Aberdeen’s Scott McKenna has been recalled while Dons captain Graeme Shinnie has retained his place, and McLeish is eager to build on the win against Albania last month when his side head to Israel for the second Nations League fixture next week.

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