SCOTLAND manager Gordon Strachan yesterday opened the door for Leigh Griffiths to earn a first start for his country in almost two years. Strachan will tomorrow name his squad for next month’s crucial Euro 2016 double header against Georgia and Germany.
Yesterday he was at Tannadice as part of the BT Sport commentary team to see Griffiths net his seventh goal of the season to help Celtic to a 3-1 victory over Dundee United – after which he was effusive in championing the striker’s club and international prospects following a week that also brought the forward a double in the Champions League play-off victory over Malmo.
“He has dragged himself back into being Celtic No.1, he has dragged himself back into the Scotland reckoning,” the Scotland manager said. “People talk about this that or the next thing but he did it himself. There was talk of him moving on loan and stuff like that but he decided ‘no, I’m not going, I want to stay here and play for this club. I am going to determine where my career goes.’ He has determined that, not anybody else, not the Scotland manager, not Ronny Deila.”
Deila revealed that Griffiths was eager to play against United on a day when the Celtic manager left out nine players from the team fielded in midweek in order to retain freshness for the return in Sweden on Tuesday.
“He could have rested if he wanted – we gave him the option – but he really wanted to play,” Deila said. “Leigh wanted to start himself. As a striker when you are scoring goals you want to keep on playing and he scored again today. He worked really hard for the team and showed the attitude we want players to have. We took him off after 65 minutes and I am happy we did that as well.
“I am very, very happy to see his development. He has grown as a person and as a player, on and off the pitch. The attitude on the pitch is at the level of Scott Brown and Stefan Johansen. It is so vital for the team. Everyone knows the way we want to play and that we need energy on the pitch and he gives it every time. He had a good finish as well.”
Meanwhile, Deila doused earlier hopes that Mikael Lustig might shake off a hamstring injury in time for the second leg. “He can reach it but it could also be two to three days early,” Deila said. “It is a day-by-day process. The important thing is that he is not out for a long time. We will wait until right up until the game starts.”