Leigh Griffiths ‘let manager down and he’s fighting for his Celtic future’

James McFadden urges the striker to do all he can to get back in Neil Lennon’s good books

Moussa Dembele, centre, celebrates opening the scoring in Lyon’s 2-1 victory over Celtic. Picture: AFP/Getty
Moussa Dembele, centre, celebrates opening the scoring in Lyon’s 2-1 victory over Celtic. Picture: AFP/Getty

James McFadden believes Leigh Griffiths is fighting to save his Celtic career with the striker preparing to prove to manager Neil Lennon that he is worth another chance.

Griffiths was left behind in Scotland when Celtic left for their pre-season camp at Loughborough University and he was also absent as they took on Nice and Lyon in the Veolia tournament in France.

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Celtic face a standalone friendly against Paris Saint-Germain at Parc des Princes tomorrow before returning to Scotland to continue preparations for their first league game of the season against Hamilton Accies in just under a fortnight.

Griffiths, inset right, has been following an individual training programme at Lennoxtown designed to bring him up to the fitness levels of his team-mates. Lennon did not hide how let down he felt when he spoke about the player’s poor physical condition for the first time following last Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Nice.

Lennon said he was “bitterly disappointed” when Griffiths returned from lockdown short of fitness and carrying extra weight. McFadden, who worked with Griffiths at international level when he was a coach under Alex McLeish, has urged the player to do everything he can to get back in Lennon’s good books again.

“He’s let the manager down, himself down, and he’s fighting for his future now,” McFadden said. “Last season, when he came back, Neil Lennon stuck by him and got him playing sensationally.

“He’s going to have to do it again, but is he going to get the chance? I don’t know.”

“Neil Lennon has decided that he’s not fit enough to come off the bench for half an hour in a friendly,” he added on BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound programme. “So he won’t be as fit as he should be or as he was when the season broke up.

“To defend him a little bit – it’s easily done. You get into a rut and obviously he’s struggled before with mental health.

“But it’s been a long time [since football stopped in March] and he should realise ‘we’re back in two or three weeks, I need to get the weight off and make sure that I’m ready to fight for my spot again’.”

Lennon will assess the improvement in Griffiths’ fitness levels when the first-team squad returns from France in midweek. The striker’s predicament has not been helped by Patryk Klimala, one of his rivals for a place in the side alongside principal striker Odsonne Edouard, scoring one of Celtic’s two goals in the Veolia tournament. The Pole scored the equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Nice.

Returning midfielder Mohamed Elyounoussi, meanwhile, was the scorer of Celtic’s other goal in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat by Lyon. The on-loan Southampton player was looking forward to more game time against PSG tomorrow after featuring for only 30 minutes at the weekend.

”Lyon was obviously a tough opponent and a good test for us,” Elyounoussi told Celtic TV after the game. “It’s been a good week of training and these two games have been good for us as well. There are a lot of positive things to take out of here, and now we go again on Tuesday.

“We wanted to press high, get on the ball and be brave on the ball, so I think we did that. We played well between the lines and the goal showed it. So it was a good test for us and it’s going to be even tougher against PSG.

“We have to be on our toes, and it’s going to make us prepare for the season to start, which is only a couple of weeks now, so we’re going to enjoy it. These 30 minutes went too quick, and I’m looking forward to hopefully getting more minutes against PSG, so we can get ready for the season.”

Lyon’s former Celtic striker Moussa Dembele was on target against his old club when he headed the French club into the lead after only four minutes.

Lennon had made ten changes to the line-up which had started the midweek draw with Nice, fielding an inexperienced line-up that included teenagers Karamoko Dembele and Scott Robertson plus 20-year-old Ewan Henderson in midfield with goalkeeper Scott Bain the only player to keep his starting place

Celtic had a penalty award reversed by VAR when it was ruled that Klimala had been fouled inches outside the box and Memphis Depay doubled the hosts’ lead before the break.

But Celtic improved after Lennon made ten substitutions around the hour mark, replacing his entire outfield line-up and Elyounoussi pulled a goal back with a fine solo effort.

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