Brendan Rodgers has assured a contrite Leigh Griffiths he remains a “big part” of his future plans for Celtic despite the striker’s touchline tantrum at Firhill on Thursday night.
Griffiths remonstrated forcibly and visibly with Rodgers when the Celtic manager substituted him during the Premiership champions’ 5-0 win over Partick Thistle. The pair then embraced on the pitch at full-time, with Rodgers stating afterwards that Griffiths had “forgot himself” with his reaction to being withdrawn.
Rodgers sought to draw a line under the incident, by revealing he received a text yesterday from Griffiths, who accepted he breached the standards of conduct the former Liverpool boss has laid down at Celtic.
“I’d a message from Leigh this morning at seven o’clock,” said Rodgers. “Bless him. He is a good boy. I totally understand where he was at. He knows what is acceptable within our ethos and how we work but I have empathy for him. It has been a difficult season for him in terms of injury and illness. He has been ill a lot this season and he hasn’t trained as much as he would have wanted to.
“You think of last year, all the goals he scored and he was out there every week, but this year has been a bit more difficult for him. When he is in the team he wants to play every single minute of every single game to show his worth.
“The point I was reiterating to him is that he is such a big part of my thinking here. What he didn’t realise in his thinking was the reason for taking him off. He is probably thinking that he wasn’t playing well enough – he was fantastic again – but the idea was to give him a rest knowing that he will start at the weekend against Hearts and be totally ready for the cup final against Aberdeen the following week.
“He’s a really good young guy. I’ve a lot of time for him. He just wants to show me and the supporters that he can be fit and playing. Unfortunately for him, it’s my job to protect the team and the whole group – not just one player – in order for us to succeed.
“He understands that totally now. He was apologetic but like I said to him, it’s gone now. Just let it go with the wind.”
Rodgers questioned Griffiths’ lifestyle and commitment to training earlier this season but insists the 26-year-old Scotland international’s Celtic days are far from numbered.
Rodgers added: “Ten years ago, as an inexperienced manager, maybe. But Leigh knows there’s a line and if I thought there was something more sinister, I’d cut it straight away.
“Whatever you feel, you keep it inside the changing room. We always do that. But I also have empathy.
“He’s very much part of what we are doing here. He’s a wonderfully talented boy, and for me it’s about helping him mature. This about having to accept these kind of scenarios because you can’t play every minute of every game.”