Steve Clarke has warned Leigh Griffiths he will have to be in top shape if he wants the chance to fire Scotland to Euro 2020.
The national team boss has included the Celtic striker in his squad for the first time since taking over as reward for Griffiths’ recent return to scoring form.
A combination of injury and personal troubles have prevented the 30-year-old from adding to his 19 caps since his last appearance against Albania in September 2018.
His last goal for Scotland was against Slovenia 11 months before that but having seen Griffiths find the net against St Johnstone and Aberdeen over the past month, Clarke is convinced he could yet have a major say as his team look to sink Serbia in Belgrade on November 12 and book a place at next summer’s European Championships.
However, the Hampden boss has made it clear Griffiths will have to be at full fitness.
Hoops manager Neil Lennon was left fuming when the frontman returned to pre-season training overweight and admitted again after his recent Pittodrie strike he was still not fully up to speed.
Now Clarke has encouraged the striker to sharpen up quickly.
“When you look at Leigh over the years he’s always been a goalscorer,” he said. “The goal he scored a couple of weeks ago at Aberdeen shows you what he’s all about really.
“Sometimes off the bench you need a goal and with Leigh in the squad he gives us that option.
“Lawrence Shankland gives us it too. The more options I’ve got the better and Leigh is certainly one of those options.
“I think he has to be 100%. Whether he goes to the pitch for 97 minutes, 120 minutes or 20 minutes, he has to be 100%.
“Every player we’re looking to play, has to be at 100% for whatever time they are on the pitch.”
Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon and Norwich defender Grant Hanley have also been welcomed back into a 27-man squad.
Gordon was the Hampden hero for Hearts over the weekend as his man-of-the-match display against Hibs helped earn the Jambos a place in next month’s William Hill Scottish Cup final.
Ryan Christie, Stuart Armstrong and Kieran Tierney – who all missed last month’s clashes with Israel, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – are back following a period of self-isolation, while defenders Scott McKenna and Liam Palmer return after injury.
“It’s certainly the biggest squad we’ve had,” said Clarke. “With three away games I thought it would be better to put together a bigger squad.”