SCOTT BROWN has welcomed the return of Leigh Griffiths to the Scotland squad and believes that his new Celtic team-mate will enhance the prospects of a positive result against Poland in Warsaw on Wednesday night.
Griffiths scored his first Celtic hat-trick in their 5-0 home win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday, watched by Scotland manager Gordon Strachan.
The 23-year-old striker had been left out of Strachan’s original squad for the challenge match against the Poles but was drafted in on Saturday night as a replacement for Norwich City’s attacking midfielder Robert Snodgrass, who withdrew with a muscle injury.
Griffiths is now in line to win his fifth Scotland cap on Wednesday in a game which has become a dress rehearsal for the clashes with Poland in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign which begins later this year.
He will join his club captain Brown in the Scotland party, which will train at Cappielow today before flying out to Warsaw tomorrow.
“I’m delighted for Leigh that he’s been called up,” said Brown. “As you could see against Inverness, he will bring goals. He creates chances for other people as well. He runs down balls that no-one else thinks he is going to get and somehow he gets them.
“He’ll be a great addition to the squad. Against Croatia in Zagreb last summer, he was the main striker for Scotland in that win. He held the ball up really well. He is sharp, fit and really strong at the moment.
“I give him a lift to training at Celtic every morning and now I’ll have to take him to meet up with Scotland too, because he can’t drive. If he could drive, he’d be on his own!
“But I’m looking forward to the Scotland game on Wednesday. We’ve got them in the Euros as well, so it will be interesting. It will give us an insight into that. It’s going to be tough, but hopefully we have a settled squad now and we can build on that.”
Griffiths’ display on Saturday earned him the match ball and Man of the Match plaudits at Celtic Park, where he received a warm ovation from the home support as he left the field.
Some Celtic fans had expressed reservations about the January transfer deadline day signing of Griffiths from Wolves, pointing to the off-field controversies which have previously surrounded the former Hibs loanee.
But Brown insists he and his team-mates never had any doubts about a player he believes is the ideal replacement for the prolific Gary Hooper, who left the club to join Norwich City last summer.
“Maybe not all of the fans were sure about him when he signed for Celtic, but everyone in the dressing room was sure of Leigh when he arrived and so was the manager,” added Brown.
“He’s what we have missed up front since Gary Hooper left. He’s now getting those goals that ‘Hoops’ was getting for us. He’s scoring hat-tricks and that’s what we need. He’s got a great left foot on him.
“The first goal against Inverness was definitely reminiscent of Gary Hooper. It was a great delivery from Emilio Izaguirre and it’s delightful to have someone who scores goals from two yards out. As a team, it’s one of the best goals you can score.
“Anthony Stokes and Leigh played really well together as a partnership and I hope that partnership blossoms.
“Leigh doesn’t bother when he misses a chance and that’s why he is a good player. Missing chances is part and parcel of the game. I should know, I miss more than anyone! But the wee man just gets back up and deals with it. He scored a hat-trick against Inverness and was brilliant.
“He loves it here. He’s Scottish, which always helps. He already knew a few of the lads, which has helped him settle in quickly as well. We’ve already seen what he has done in training and now it is shining in games.”
Celtic are now effectively just three wins away from clinching their third successive Scottish title, holding a 21-point lead and vastly superior goal difference over second-placed Aberdeen with ten games left to play.
Brown was delighted by Celtic’s emphatic response on Saturday to their first league defeat of the campaign, the 2-1 loss to Aberdeen at Pittodrie last Tuesday night, and is adamant they will maintain a high level of intensity in their performances in the coming weeks.
“It isn’t difficult in the slightest for us to keep ourselves motivated for the rest of the season,” said Brown. “We just want to play football. We enjoy it.
“We battered Aberdeen last Tuesday night for 90 minutes when we only had ten men for most of the game. It shows you what a good side we are.”