‘Fully-fit Leigh Griffiths needed to get Scotland back among goals’

Leigh Griffiths withdrew from the Scotland squad in order to focus on his fitness. Picture: SNS..
Leigh Griffiths withdrew from the Scotland squad in order to focus on his fitness. Picture: SNS..
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Simon Donnelly has insisted that peace must break out between Leigh Griffiths and Alex McLeish for the sake of Scotland’s Nations League hopes.

Griffiths, unhappy at losing his place but citing fitness reasons, withdrew from the national team squad for the ill-fated qualifier in Israel last Thursday and the friendly defeat by Portugal last Sunday.

The Celtic striker lost his place to Steven Naismith for the Albania qualifier in September and felt he was harshly treated by McLeish who confirmed that Naismith would start the Israel game, which ended in a humiliating 2-1 defeat.

The Scots now need a draw or a win in Albania on 17 November, then a win at Hampden against Israel three days later to win their section.

Success would put them into a one-off semi-final. Victory there would progress them to the Group C final which carries qualification to 
Euro 2020.

Donnelly believes it would be counter-productive if Griffiths, in full flow, was not involved in these matches.

Indeed, he feels the very hopes of qualification could lie in the balance if the 29-times capped striker is not used.

Donnelly said: “I don’t think anyone should turn their back on their nation – although I don’t think that’s what he did. I don’t think he was 
fully fit.

“I work at Celtic Park on matchdays and I have seen him in fits and starts. He needs to be playing regularly and he needs to be fully fit.

“A fully-fit Leigh Griffiths is an asset for Celtic and an asset for Scotland.

“Whether there are personal problems there I don’t know. I don’t know the ins and outs of Scotland.

“But, for me, in football terms if you can get the ball to a fully-fit Leigh Griffiths in the final third he has shown time and time and again that nine times out of ten he will put the ball in the back of the net. We don’t have anyone 
better.”

Donnelly also feels that there have to be roles for both Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson in the Scotland side, even although they are both vying for the left-back position.

He said: “I think they’ve both got to play. It’s not for me to tell Alex McLeish his job, but you have to play the two of them. They are too good to leave out.

“I don’t think that was the problem the other night against Israel. I just think there were too many other guys off their game.

“Allan MacGregor was the only one with pass marks, everyone else was poor on the night and I think they’ve admitted it themselves.

“I don’t think it was anything to do with trying to fit those two in, but I think you’ve got to find a way to play the two of them, whether it is Kieran at left-back.

“Andy plays virtually at left-wing for Liverpool on a Saturday anyway, albeit he’s in a team that has a lot of the ball. That’s where I would play them.

“I couldn’t leave either of them out the team, they are too important to Scotland.”