Leigh Griffiths has received the backing of former Celtic and Scotland boss Gordon Strachan.
The Celtic striker pulled out of the Scotland squad ahead of their Uefa Nations League encounter with Israel and friendly against Portugal - both games were subsequently lost - to focus on his fitness with his club.
Griffiths’ decision prompted much discussion as well as speculation as to whether the player had fallen out with Alex McLeish or didn’t want to turn up as he was not guaranteed a game.
His former Scotland boss dismissed such rumours, backing the player.
“Some people have suggested that Leigh Griffiths’s decision to pull out of the Scotland squad was some kind of sulk about not being picked in the previous matches,” Strachan told Paddy Power. “But the person I dealt with and know? I can’t see it, I really can’t.
“Yes, he’s a quirky character, but he was never a problem at any time. Not one problem whatsoever, and I think every manager who has ever worked with Griff will say that.
“He can make you laugh, he can make you scratch your head, he can make you question what’s normal – but, whatever was happening in his life, when he was on the training field, he was first class, and great company. Maybe because we’re both from Edinburgh, and a bit wacky, but I got him.
“And what people seem to be forgetting is that, when Alex made that decision, it was the Albania game, which Scotland won.”
Strachan, who was in charge of Scotland between 2013 and 2017, admitted that he had doubts about Griffiths. Doubts which have now been put to bed.
“I’ve got to say, five years ago, I didn’t think he’d get to the standard he is now. I thought he was a good player, but not very good. So that improvement is a credit to Griff – there’s something in him that makes him want to get better, and this is another example of that.
He added: “You have to take people at their word. It’s the same with James McArthur – he now isn’t available for a few months, and it’s better this way, him coming out and saying that. Rather than Alex naming him in the squad and then James having to pull-out every times.
“At least, this way, Alex knows that he isn’t available. If I was Alex, I’d be looking at the reaction of the people coming in, are they good enough to take the places of Griff and James?
“It’s up to them, the lads will say ‘aye, you’re better than me, on you go’ – because they know the manager has to be loyal to players who come in and do a good job for us.”
Gordon Strachan was speaking exclusively to Paddy Power News. To read more, visit news.paddypower.com