Leigh Griffiths has pleaded with Celtic supporters to put their Champions League despair behind them and turn out in big numbers for Thursday’s Europa League play-off first leg against AIK Stockholm.
Celtic striker Griffiths believes the Scottish champions will be disadvantaged if fears of a smaller crowd at their own stadium this week are realised.
The sense of disaffection among the Celtic support in the aftermath of last week’s dramatic Champions League elimination at the hands of Romanian side Cluj is taking time to dissipate.
While no official attendance was provided by the club for Saturday’s Betfred Cup tie against Dunfermline, when Neil Lennon’s side needed extra time to defeat their Championship opponents, Celtic Park was more than half empty with an estimated figure of around 23,000.
The Green Brigade section of the ground also unveiled a banner criticising the running of the club, accusing the board of “downsizing” and “gambling ten-in-a-row”.
But while Griffiths appreciates the lingering sense of disappointment over Celtic’s failure to reach the group stage of the Champions League, he insists progress to the Europa League group stage could also be under threat without strong backing from the stands on Thursday.
“I know the fans wanted Champions League football this season, but that’s gone,” said Griffiths.
“If they still want European group stage football, then they will have to help us get over the line. AIK are no mugs, they will be a decent side, and we will need the supporters to help us to victory. We need to stick together now.
“The boys are frustrated by what happened against Cluj and we now need to go out and take out our frustration in the next few games. We have a point to prove. We also have to get bums on seats on Thursday night, because we need the support to be the 12th man.
“It’s not been great, what happened in the Champions League, but we can’t dwell on it. We need to pick ourselves back up. Yes, it was disappointing but it’s in the past and we need to move on from it and put things right.”