LEIGH GRIFFITHS curled in a delightful free-kick against FK Suduva on August 30 to claim his 100th goal for Celtic.
The trademark deadball effort helped the Hoops to a 3-0 triumph at Parkhead and a 4-1 aggregate win to reach the Europa League group stages.
Griffiths, who signed a new contract in September to keep him at Parkhead until 2022 at least, collected only five more strikes to add to that memorable landmark goal, the last coming with another free-kick against Hamilton Accies at the Hope Stadium on November 24.
The 28-year-old Scotland international frontman made his last first team appearance as a second-half substitute in the 5-1 victory over Kilmarnock on December 8 after fluffing a penalty-kick in the 1-1 draw with Motherwell at Fir Park three days beforehand.
Griffiths has missed TWENTY consecutive games and there is no sign of a return following his omission from the squad due to personal issues.
However, former Hoops manager and player Davie Hay, now a club ambassador, reckons the player should be thinking about a return to the training ground as a step forward.
THANK HEAVENS…Leigh Griffiths looks skywards after his goal against Hamilton Accies in November.
The Celtic legend, speaking in the Evening Times, said: “I don’t know what is going on with Leigh Griffiths, but, for me, the best place for him to be right now is back at Lennoxtown.
“I would have to stress that I offer my view as an outsider, so I have no knowledge of just how Leigh is or where he is in terms of dealing with the issues that caused him to take leave from the club.
“But it has been almost four months now and the longer you are away the harder it is to come back.
“I don’t mean that there should be any pressure on the boy to come back and get back to work, but more so that the daily routine of getting up and getting to Lennoxtown and being around the squad would probably do him the world of good.
“There is everything he could possibly need access to at Lennoxtown in terms of nutritional and physical advice and that in itself can also be a help.
THE CUP THAT CHEERS…Leigh Griffiths waits with team-mates Callum McGregor, Scott Sinclair, Tom Rogic and James Forrest as Scott Bain proudly holds aloft the League Cup after the 1-0 win over Aberdeen at the start of December.
“But just being around the squad and the camaraderie of it is something that I think would work in his favour. There is some respite to be found in concentrating on doing a little bit of work and that is not to diminish from what was obviously some really serious issues that Griffiths was dealing with.
“The other thing to it is that he knows Neil Lennon. He is not walking into a club with a new manager. He knows Lennon and Lennon knows him – and knows how to get the best out of him.
“None of us is privy to what is going on behind the scenes and I am reluctant to tell people what they should be doing, but it would be in everyone’s best interests to have him in and around the club.
“I am not sure if he is working on his own in terms of physical work, but that sense of isolation can become heavy.
“Being back amongst it could offer him a gradual pathway back into the team because, ultimately, he still has a contract at Celtic.
ON THE SPOT…Leigh Griffiths misses with his penalty-kick in the 1-1 draw with Motherwell at Fir Park.
“I think we have seen this season that Odsonne Edouard has established himself as the first choice striker, but Celtic have been short up front.
“I don’t know whether Leigh would be in a position to play again this season having been out for so long, but even a cameo before the end of the campaign would be of benefit.
“And I think he can be sure of a pretty warm reception from the Celtic support whenever he does make his return.
“There will be Champions League qualifiers again this summer and I think we are all accustomed to the early start to the season for Celtic.
“So, at least, if he was up to speed and in there for the beginning of pre-season then he would not be playing catch up with the rest of the squad.”