LEIGH GRIFFITHS was the target for the boo boys when he came on as a second-half substitute in Celtic’s 6-2 nosedive against West Ham at Parkhead yesterday.
And boss Ange Postecoglou insists it’s up to the striker, who is 31 next month, to win back the trust of the fans.
Griffiths was jeered by a section of supporters when he made his first appearance of the season following being cleared by a Police Scotland investigation into online messages he sent to a 15-year-old girl.
The frontman, who is in his last year of his current contract, was also applauded by some followers in the 18,500 crowd.
Postecoglou reckons the former Scotland international forward will have to work hard to get the fans back onside as he attempts to get back into his stride following three years in which he has scored a meagre total of 25 goals.
The new Hoops gaffer, who is still waiting for his first win in the east end of Glasgow following three successive failures after a 1-0 loss to Preston and a 1-1 draw with FC Midtjylland before yesterday’s disappointment, said: “That’s going to be down to Leigh and his performances. If he works hard at training and produces the kind of football he can, scoring goals, I’m sure the crowd will get behind him.
“I won’t be telling the Celtic supporters anything. They’ve followed this club a lot longer than I’ve been here.
“My job is to produce a team they’re proud of and we let them down on this occasion.
“Maybe it is a big challenge for him, but that’s what he wanted. He didn’t have to come back. He wanted to come back and play for the club again. He wanted to contribute.
“When you make that decision, you embrace everything that comes along with it.”
The one-time crowd favourite isn’t Postecoglou’s only concern before the crucial Champions League return against their Danish rivals in midweek.
The second round qualifier is balanced at 1-1 and the former Australia international manager is under extreme pressure. Rookie central defenders Stephen Welsh and Dane Murray were shredded by rampant Hammers hitman Michail Antonio who scored his club’s first two goals on their way to a runaway success.
But with new boy Carl Starfelt unavailable and Nir Bitton, foolishly red-carded last week, missing because of suspension, Postecoglou, speaking to the Sunday Mail, continued: “The problem right now is that we’ve signed two players who we can’t even use. For me, we still need another few to come in.
“We don’t have any other options in defence. Unless they’ve been hiding from me. I can only play the ones who are available.
“This result makes no difference to my confidence ahead of Wednesday. We knew it was going to be a tough challenge going over there.
“We saw in the first leg that we played well, but it was still a tight contest. It’ll be the same in the second leg.”
He added: “It was disappointing because there were some positive things in it. But there were also bits of our game that were poor. And against a good quality opponent you get punished.
“The defending was okay the other night, but it wasn’t great on this occasion. It’s an area we need to keep focusing on. But we just didn’t defend well as a unit. Maybe playing against better quality, we shied away from certain things, which you can’t afford to do.
“But I’m not sure about assessing individual performances. Collectively, we didn’t stick to our task in a defensive sense.
“We were bright going forward and showed a willingness to play our football. But you’ve got to match that with the other side of the game.
“We exposed the two young boys at the back when we didn’t have to. We know they’re young and understand they’ll make mistakes.
“But they didn’t have good enough support around them. We didn’t defend well as a team.”