Leigh Griffiths: It’ll be strange going to Ibrox and Tannadice not getting stick

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths celebrates completing his hat-rick against St Mirren on 7 March. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNSCeltic striker Leigh Griffiths celebrates completing his hat-rick against St Mirren on 7 March. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths celebrates completing his hat-rick against St Mirren on 7 March. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
Striker relishing return to training but isn’t keen on games without fans

For Leigh Griffiths, any time away from football is too long. His seven-month absence from the Celtic first team last year, as he battled mental health issues, has been well documented and was unquestionably the most difficult period of his life.

It’s now three months since the striker last kicked a ball in anger – highly effectively, too, as he scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over St Mirren in the champions’ final match before football was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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For Griffiths, the current lockdown poses its own problems as he looks to ensure he does not lose any of the positive momentum he had gathered in reviving his career. By his own admission, the 29-year-old can lose fitness significantly whenever he is away from the sharp end of training and playing matches.

That is why he is more eager than most to get back to Celtic’s training ground next week and start preparing for a new season currently pencilled in for 1 August.

“I can’t wait to get going again,” said Griffiths. “We’ve had programmes to keep us ticking over and pre-season is going to be tough. You never, ever get three months off as a squad, but I wouldn’t actually say we’ve had three months off because we have all been cracking on with our own training ourselves.

“But you don’t actually realise how long we’ve been off, so there might be some cobwebs. I gave myself two weeks off in the middle [of lockdown], but straight away I didn’t feel the way I wanted to and decided to get straight back at it.

“I feel as though I can keep going, so long as I keep myself injury free. As long as I don’t sustain any bad injuries, I feel as though I have a long, long time to go and, hopefully, it’s at Celtic.

“For me [last season], it was just about getting my head straight and working on stuff that was causing me problems to try to come back and be as fit as I could be because you need to be really fit to play in this Celtic team.

“Being match fit is okay, but you need to be available for every training session to be available for selection.

“It was tough at the start. I need to be training nearly every day. If I have a sustained period of time out, my fitness levels drop considerably. It’s easier to lose fitness than gain it and it was just trying to get back.

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“I was one of only a couple who completed the whole of last pre-season and did every single session. I want to do that again this summer and make sure I am available to the manager from the start.”

With matches set to be played behind closed doors when Scottish football restarts, Griffiths admits there are aspects of that which bemuse him after tuning in to the return of German football in the past couple of weeks.

“I’ve been watching the Bundesliga and there is a part of it that I am struggling to get my head around,” he added.

“The players are in contact training each day, they are then in contact throughout the 90 minutes of the games, yet the subs are sitting two metres apart. That’s the bit I don’t get. It’s weird.

“But, listen, there have been some really good games and I think everyone is just looking forward to getting matches back onto the TV.

“Whether it is behind closed doors or with fans there, the English Premier League are trying to get it done.

“For us, it’s just about getting back to pre-season and, when the time comes around, we’ll see where we are in terms of the Government and what their issues are at the time.

“It’s the guidance and as long as everyone complies, sport will come back quicker than if they don’t.

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“It’ll be strange going to some stadiums away from home like Ibrox or Tannadice or wherever and I won’t be getting any stick. It’ll feel weird and I’ll be feeling quite good!

“The quicker the fans get back to enjoy their teams playing football, the better. The game is all about the fans and, regardless of whether it is a home game or an away game, you want people there.

“When we have away games, there are often more Celtic fans there than there are for the home team.

“We want them back, but we need to comply with the Government and we know our fans will be behind us, even if they are not inside the stadium and they are watching on the TV.

“We’ll find our ways to deal with whatever happens. We’ll go back next week into training and we’ll have a massive meeting about how big next season is and everyone will know,” added Griffiths.

“The fans are excited for it and so are the players. We know it is going to be tough and teams will want to stop us, especially Rangers. But it is just about what we do and we’ll concentrate on our own game.

“Of course it will be different without fans. But for us it is just going to be about going out and playing the games.

“It’s about getting three points or getting through to the next round of a competition. That’ll be the outlook and that’ll be the focus.

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“We’ll look forward to each and, hopefully at the end of the season, we’ll be history makers again.”

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