Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths sends a message to Scotland boss Steve Clarke

Striker’s hat-trick puts him in line for Euro play-off call-up

Leigh Griffiths celebrates his first goal for Celtic against St Mirren. Picture: Ross Parker/ SNS

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths was in no doubt that he delivered Scotland manager Steve Clarke “a big message” with his hat-trick in the 5-0 win over St Mirren.

The 29-year-old has never been available for Clarke across his eight months in charge of the national side as a result of the striker’s injury and personal issues.

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But with eight goals in the past seven weeks, Griffiths has proven himself to be the most potent Scottish striker in contention for a place in the squad Clarke will select in just over a week’s time for the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Israel at Hampden on 26 March.

“It’ll send him a big message,” said Griffiths after his first triple in four years, before adding, “but there will be other players that will be trying to prove a point between now and when he names the squad.

“He’s still not been in touch but it’s hard when he’s picking 25, 26 guys. It’s not just about one individual. When the squad’s announced, if I’m in it, I’ll be absolutely buzzing. If not? I’ll keep working away on the training ground and the more opportunities that come with Celtic the more chances I’ll have of scoring goals.”

Celtic manager Neil Lennon cautioned Clarke against selecting Griffiths early in the season as he sought to build his fitness and resilience following his time away from the game. Now, he sees the situation with Griffiths and the national team differently.

“His timing is pretty good. If you need a goal, then why not,” said the Irishman. “We’re talking hypothetically here, but it’s down to Steve. Steve has been watching all the games, I’m sure, he’s been around watching players, but if he hasn’t seen Leigh today that might be a message to him from the player himself.

“He’s answered all his critics. People were saying he was finished here. It was never the case. We worked with him, my backroom team and fitness coaches, tirelessly with him and we were patient, so he owes the club a lot but with performances like that he’s starting to repay it.”

Griffiths’ hat-trick against a struggling St Mirren side took him into double figures for the season with Celtic. He now has a total of 11 competitive goals for the Parkhead club across the current campaign, with eight league games remaining and potentially two more in the Scottish Cup.