Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has urged Leigh Griffiths to “lie low” and focus on the simple things in his life as he takes time away from football due to mental health issues.
The striker was left behind as his team-mates flew out to their winter training camp in Dubai. He was spotted at a horse racing meeting in Newcastle at the weekend and reacted angrily to images which appeared in a national newspaper and the suggestion he had a gambling problem.
Griffiths took to social media to say: “I am off work due to my mental health state. It’s not gambling, drugs or any other issue that’s been written about me since December.”
Rodgers admitted he was made aware of the matter but as he had flown to the United Arab Emirates immediately after Celtic’s defeat by Rangers at the end of last year he has not had a chance to speak to the player.
He said he would hold talks with the 28-year-old when he returns to Glasgow at the weekend, pointing out that the player was “not on holiday.” Rodgers said: “‘I haven’t seen anything since I came out here from the game. I was obviously made aware of it but haven’t seen the pictures of it. The club are dealing with it, it’s a private matter.
“Leigh was off on grounds of his health so the club are supporting him with that and I’ve nothing much more to say on it until I, one, speak to him and, two, see something – but that will not be until I get back.
“I just need to see where it is all at because he is not on holiday. I think it’s one where I will take a deep breath and look at it.
“It’s very important he understands why he is off and why he has been given the time off. Why he has to maximise that time in terms of getting better. That’s about getting specialist help and lying low and focusing on the simple things in your life that will allow you to be better. I haven’t spoken to him yet. A designated person at the club is dealing with everything with regards to Leigh and I will pick that up when I get back.”
Rodgers admitted he had no idea when Griffiths, who has not played since appearing as a second-half substitute in Celtic’s 5-1 win over Kilmarnock on 8 December, will be ready for first-team action again.
“There is no timescale,” he said. “It’s all based around how he is feeling and the situations in his life. Ultimately he is a Celtic player and the club are paying him a lot of money. But in these instances you have
to support the player. Money doesn’t count for anything if the player isn’t in good health. We need to support him which the club is doing amazingly.
“But there is also a responsibility for Leigh Griffiths. I know it’s ongoing with the club and I have no timeline with this kind of stuff.
“It’s a bit of responsibility. You take a deep breath, assess where you are at and then take the responsibility. Players who have dealt with any types of issues, it’s admitting that responsibility and knowing where you are at, really.
“It’s the only way you have move forward, really. It is important, if you have these issues, there are ways in which to deal with it.”