Callum McGregor believes Leigh Griffiths is ready to rediscover the kind of form which can lead both Celtic and Scotland to glory in the second half of the season.
Griffiths scored his first goal since August when he returned to Celtic’s starting line-up in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Partick Thistle at Firhill in the fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup.
The 29-year-old striker’s future with the Scottish champions had appeared in doubt for several months as he struggled to attain the levels of fitness demanded by manager Neil Lennon.
But Griffiths, who was sidelined for six months last year as he addressed mental health issues, has done enough in training over the past few weeks to persuade Lennon to restore him to the side.
McGregor feels his team-mate is now showing the necessary desire to become an influential figure again for Celtic as they bid for a ninth consecutive league title and also for Scotland in their Euro 2020 play-offs in March.
“We were all pleased for Leigh on Saturday,” said McGregor.
“He’s been working hard to get back to full fitness so it was great to see him starting and scoring.
“Everyone knows the quality he has – when he gets a chance you expect him to score – so the goal will help him.
“Having him available again is like having a new player,” added McGregor.
“If we can get him back to his previous heights, then that will be a massive bonus for us and him from now until the end of the season.
“His pedigree speaks for itself so it’s down to Leigh and also the rest of the players here to help him recover his sharpness. But he looked good at Firhill and, hopefully, he’s ready to play a big part for us and for Scotland for the remainder of the campaign.
“He’s ready to go and he’s hungry because he’s missed a lot of football. It’s important for everyone that we get him back to playing week in, week out.”
Odsonne Edouard remains Celtic’s first-choice striker, while there is now added competition for places up front after the £3.4 million capture of Polish under-21 international Patryk Klimala, who made his debut as a substitute for Griffiths on Saturday.
“At a club like this, you need someone at the top end of the pitch who’ll score the goals,” added McGregor.
“Odsonne has had to shoulder that responsibility for us for most of this season and you need to remember that he’s still a young guy.
“However, if Leigh is back and scoring goals – and Patryk has looked impressive from what we’ve seen of him – that should help us spread the goals around because you need options up front.”