LEIGH GRIFFITHS is battling to get his Celtic career back on track – but skipper Scott Brown has warned the fans not to expect too much too soon.
The 29-year-old striker hasn’t played since a substitute’s appearance against Motherwell in August.
Griffiths, a genuine fans’ favourite, has scored only three goals in this campaign to add to the six last term during his well-documented time due to personal issues.
Since rejoining the Hoops first-team squad, the frontman has been striving to recover match fitness and he took a step on the road to recovery with a two-goal show in the reserves’ 6-0 win over Stenhousmeuir on Tuesday.
Brown, a close friend as well as team-mate of Griffiths, is as eager as anyone to see him back to his best for both club and country.
However, he made it plain there is still some way to go before his colleague is terrorising defences again.
The Parkhead skipper and midfield dynamo, speaking to The Scotsman, said: “Leigh wants to play, he wants to play for Celtic. It is hard for any professional footballer when you aren’t playing and you are injured. It is always going to be a hard thing.
CUP THAT CHEERS…Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths, along with Scott Sinclair, celebrate the 2-0 Scottish Cup Final triumph over Motherwell in 2018.
“But he is dealing with it and he is coming back. It is just trying to make sure he is in the best condition he can possibly be in. He is in a good frame of mind just now. We need to make sure that once he is in training, he is scoring those goals and working as hard as everybody else and it isn’t all about scoring goals in the six-yard box.
“We need that whole play from him, whether it is him defending, working hard, closing down people as well as scoring those goals.
“We haven’t seen too much of him in training. We’ve had the international break and he’s been in doing bits and bobs. But he’s looking to get back in, he’s looking to get back to the fitness levels he had before and he’s going to have to play those bounce games, like he did this week, to make sure he gets his match fitness more than anything.
“From there, it is up to him and the manager how far he can push himself and if he can compete with Odsonne Edouard for a place in the team.
“There are people who have done cruciates and have been out for a long time and you know what it’s like when you come back. It’s similar for Leigh now. In the first couple of games you are always a bit rusty. That is why he is trying to get as many bounce games in now – so he is not that rusty when he comes into the first team.”
Brown, who will lead the eight-in-a-row champions into action against Livingston in Glasgow tomorrow, added: “It would be a great boost for Scotland and a good boost for us at Celtic, too.
Everyone knows how good a player Leigh is, but he needs to get back to the required fitness levels that he used to have.
“When he played for Scotland he was incredible. I enjoyed playing with him. You saw the way he played against England, those two free-kicks in the 2-2 draw. It wasn’t just about the free-kicks, it was about how you control two centre-halves.
“We all know what his left foot can do, anyway, we know he is going to put the ball in the back of the net, but it’s just about making sure that he is as fit as he possibly can be.”