GORDON Strachan has praised Leigh Griffiths for turning his career around to the extent that he is now a popular choice to lead the line for Scotland.
The Scotland manager shed little light on whether the Celtic player would start the vital Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia next Friday after naming his squad yesterday. But he acknowledged the widespread support for the in-form striker to be handed a jersey with Steven Fletcher currently struggling to hold down a regular place with Sunderland. “I’m sure there are a lot of people who would like to see him [Griffiths] starting,” he said.
Joining Griffiths in the squad for the Group D double-header with Georgia and Germany is Celtic team-mate Stuart Armstrong who, despite being called up before, is still waiting for his first cap. Also included are the returning pair, Chris Martin and Allan McGregor, both of whom missed the trip to Dublin to face Ireland in June.
Although named in the squad, Griffiths did not play that day, either. However, five goals in his last four games for Celtic have helped place the striker back in the spotlight for positive reasons.
Strachan believes there is no-one to credit but the player himself for the turnaround in fortunes from this time last year, when he was being linked with a return on loan to Hibernian. Strachan applauded the way Griffiths has made himself indispensable at Celtic.
“It wasn’t Celtic or Hibs or me who determined his future, but Leigh himself. I keep saying to players when they tell me the manager doesn’t like them or this thing and that: ‘Do me a favour. You decide where you want to go in your life, get on with it’. And that’s what he has done. He has decided.”
According to Strachan, this upturn in fortunes has also been helped by the striker’s apparent ability to steer clear of controversy in recent times. “We’ve not had many headlines in the last six months, which is great,” he said. “I might be wrong, but there’s no headline that has hurt anybody deeply.”
Strachan welcomed Armstrong’s return to the Scotland frame after a spell when his absence was beginning to raise eyebrows. The Scotland manager has allowed the player to settle in at Celtic first before inviting him back into the international set-up. He also explained that he is spoiled for choice in midfield, which is why Charlie Adam and Barry Bannan drop out.
“That’s probably why it has taken him [Armstrong] a little longer to get back into the squad because it is really competitive in that area,” he said.
Strachan, meanwhile, is confident Celtic will give Scotland a boost before the up-coming double header by qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League against Malmö tonight, having taken a 3-2 lead in the first leg.
“I think they’ll win,” said the former Celtic manager. “I don’t want to be like the Malmö coach and tell you what’s going right in the world and what’s going wrong.
“I just believe they have a good chance of doing it because they have good passers of the ball, Celtic. They have good counter-attacking players.
“It’s a boost for us all because it’s a new journey, new games, a new focus,” he added, with reference to Celtic’s potential qualification. “There’s a freshness and that’s what the players like.”
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