Leigh Griffiths will cut short summer to boost Scotland role

Griffiths started the recent friendly match against Denmark. Picture: Michael Gillen
Griffiths started the recent friendly match against Denmark. Picture: Michael Gillen
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Leigh Griffiths has declared his willingness to cut short his summer break in a bid to stake his claim for a key role in Scotland’s 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, writes Stephen Halliday.

The Celtic striker will make his 51st and final appearance of the season for the Scottish champions tonight when they face St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.

Griffiths, who will miss Celtic’s last fixture at home to Motherwell on Sunday through suspension, is waiting to learn if he will be included in the Scotland squad for the high-profile challenge matches against Italy in Malta on 29 May and France in Metz on 4 June.

That would leave him with just a three-week break before Celtic resume pre-season training in preparation for their Champions League qualifiers. But Griffiths, who has yet to score in his seven appearances for Scotland so far, is ready to accept Gordon Strachan’s call.

“I’m available for the Scotland games,” said Griffiths. “They are interesting games against top-class opposition, both of them going to the Euro 2016 finals.

“If I’m selected, I will be delighted. But if the manager calls and says I have to rest, then I’ll have no qualms about that.

“I’ll go away, enjoy my break, keep on top of my fitness and come back raring to go for the new season. At Celtic, you don’t get as much rest as other teams, with the European campaign coming up.

“The Scotland games finish on 4 June and we’re back for pre-season at Celtic on 25 June. That’s still time to recharge your batteries, enjoy your break and return ready.”

Griffiths made just one appearance for Scotland in the Euro 2016 qualifiers, as a substitute against Georgia, and appreciates the importance of taking any chance he can to impress Strachan ahead of the World Cup campaign which begins in September.

The 24-year-old has found himself down the pecking order of Scotland strikers, with Steven Fletcher retaining his status as Strachan’s first-choice front man in his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

“You want to put in as many good performances for Scotland as you can and, hopefully, score as many goals as you can,” added Griffiths.

“France and Italy are top teams and you want to go and prove yourself against the best. It will be a good test for us ahead of the qualifying campaign.”