BRENDAN RODGERS has told Celtic Ton-Up Bhoy Leigh Griffiths: The hard work starts now!
The Hoops striker, 28, who agreed a new four-year deal at the club last week, is eager to start on his second century and hopes to get the nod to face Rosenborg in the opening Europa League Group B encounter at Parkhead tonight.
Rodgers, however, fired a warning to the hitman: “With the big clubs you’re always going to be challenged. You can never think you are the number one striker. No, you always have to think you’re being pushed and challenged.
“That’s the way it is. Big clubs will always have options, you always have to fight to prove yourself every day in training and in every game.
“And if you don’t, and you drop off a level, whatever your fitness or preparation, then there’s always someone else.
“But I think what he’s done, and what he’s shown, is that he’s the ability to score goals.
“What he has to keep doing is keep working, keep fighting, so those opportunities come. That he’s fit and ready to take them.
“I think he’s great to have in our squad, that’s why we wanted to give him another deal. He’s an important member of the squad. We know he can score goals. But, like I say, at top teams it’s about more than that.
“But it’s something he’ll continue to work on, that side of his game. That will always improve his chances domestically and, of course, also at international level.”
PEEK-A-BOO BHOY…Leigh Griffiths prepared for the elements at training.
Griffiths was upset when Scotland gaffer Alex McLeish opted for on-loan Hearts veteran Steven Naismith to lead the line from the start in the UEFA Nations League tie against Alabnia at Hampden last week.
The player admitted it felt like a “kick in the teeth” to learn the 32-year-old Norwich City player is likely to become first pick for the international team for next month’s meeting with Israel.
Rodgers added: “I was at the Albania game and I thought Naismith was excellent. He worked his socks off and got us two goals – you can’t complain with that.
“For every player, Leigh knows his qualities, but at this stage of his career he has to work tirelessly at all aspects of his game.
“If you look at the evolution of strikers, it is not just about scoring goals any more, you have to do more than that.
“Strikers are now running underneath, pressing from behind, working, so there is no other way you can take that out other than on the training field and work even harder. When opportunities are there then you come and take them.
“I always explain this to players who want to be the very best they can be. The first thing I ask them is: ‘Where are you at training?’ Because if you want to play like Coutinho or Suarez or these types of guys, you need to be eight, nine out of 10 in training every day.
“Now, if you think you can work at a five or six out of 10, then you’re not even ready to train with these guys — never mind play with them.
WORDS OF WARNING…Brendan Rodgers has his say.
“So, you’ve got to get your training right here in order to have a chance. That’s the modern game at the very highest level, or the levels you try to aspire to.
“Training is so important, you need to be ready to work and then when opportunities come, whether you’re Leigh Griffiths or anyone else, you need to be ready to take them.
“That’s the message to every player, not just Leigh. You have to be ready to do that.
“Then you have a difficult job as a manager. Otherwise, if people aren’t pushing themselves then it’s quite an easy job.”
* Don’t miss the big-match report between Celtic and Rosenborg this evening in your champion CQN.
* ‘Billy McNeill: In Praise of Caesar’ is the latest Celtic book from author Alex Gordon. In this magnificent tribute book to the Celtic legend, chief executive Peter Lawwell has written the Foreword, there’s a personal message from Brendan Rodgers and there are interviews with around forty of Billy’s friends in football including Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Kenny Dalglish, Davie Hay, Gordon, Strachan, Roy Aitken, Paul McStay, Frank McAvennie, Frank McGarvey, Charlie Nicholas, Pat Bonner, Bertie Auld, Jim Craig, John Clark, Bobby Lennox, Willie Wallace and so many more. It’s on sale now at CQN Bookstore and here is the link: