20 October 2019 14:34
Get the biggest Celtic stories by email Subscribe Thank you for subscribing We have more newsletters Show me See our privacy notice Could not subscribe, try again later Invalid Email Remember Leigh Griffiths? In a week when Odsonne Edouard's value reportedly shot up to £30m, remember how he used to keep the young Frenchman out of Celtic's team? In an international break when Scotland looked at their lowest ebb in Russia, remember how Griff blew the roof off Hampden with those two free-kicks against England? But he's only 29 years old – we shouldn't just be left with memories. Only three years ago, Griffiths hit 40 goals in a 53-game season at Celtic.
The following campaign, it was 20. A slow, gradual decline in output. He's Neil Lennon's third-choice striker behind Edouard and Vakoun Issouf Bayo. That would have been unthinkable a few years ago. But that's where Griffiths finds himself. A bit-part player. (Image: Action Images via Reuters) The guy Lennon might start in a Betfred Cup tie or throw on late when a game's either already won or Celtic desperately need a goal. That shouldn't be what Griffiths is all about at this stage of his career. And it's why, in January, both player and manager will have a huge call to make on his immediate future. We all know Griffiths has had problems off the pitch. People will argue that his recovery from those issues and the fact he's even back in Lennon's squad is deserving of praise. But what now for Scotland's best centre-forward? Griffiths doesn't strike me as the kind of character who would be happy sauntering to the end of his career without making an impact. Until he's sitting in an Edinburgh boozer reminiscing over that day he owned Joe Hart. If he does it would be a tragedy. Because Celtic and Scotland need Griffiths back to his best. No one can argue that his club's title challenge wouldn't be strengthened by Edouard AND Griffiths banging goals in left, right and centre. In the same way Alfredo Morelos and Jermain Defoe are across the city. And he's especially missed by his country, who are now asking Lawrence Shankland – a terrific player - to take the jump from the Championship to the international stage. People were crying out for Griffiths' inclusion in Clarke's squad for the September matches with Russia and Belgium. The manager said he wasn't quite ready. But the truth is Griffiths was nowhere near getting a call up to face that level of opposition. Despite a couple of niggling injuries, he has effectively been fit for a while now. Clearly, Lennon just hasn't seen enough from him to suggest that he's the player he once was. Away from the club's Lennoxtown training ground, Griff is living his life in the right manner. Moving from the capital through to Glasgow has helped. (Image: SNS Group) But for now he's got Bayo and Edouard to get past before he gets a sniff of a green and white jersey. Now that shouldn't be a daunting prospect for someone of his quality, belief and gallus streak. But he's got to prove it. He's taken plenty of knocks in his career already and invariably bounced back. But this current test of character – and ability – looks like his toughest yet. And that's why the striker has a big decision to make in January. He has a contract at Parkhead until summer 2022. If he's willing to settle for cameo performances from the bench, he can. But that's not the same Griffiths who's had an insatiable appetite for goals from when he was a kid at Livingston. To score, and get match sharpness, he needs to play. That's why Lennon and Celtic should look to get him out on loan in the next window. (Image: SNS) Hoops fans might be choking on their cornflakes reading that.= But for Celtic to get the old Griffiths back, the explosive attacker who struck fear into opposition defences, they need to let him go – at least until the end of the season. Despite his lack of form, if he was available you'd have the likes of Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen and others further afield queuing up to take him. Maybe a return to his spiritual home at Easter Road might be just what Leigh needs. Griffiths' nickname is Sparky but he's lost that and needs to get it back quickly. He's capable of it. And every Scotland fan must hope that it can somehow be reignited. Just to ensure that we're not all sitting here in a few years, watching those strikes against England or his 40-goal haul for Celtic in 2016 – and saying, remember Leigh Griffiths?