CHRIS SUTTON has applauded the efforts of Leigh Griffiths to battle his way into Neil Lennon’s Celtic first-team squad.

However, the former Hoops striker has told the comeback Bhoy to cut out the goal celebration antics and concentrate on keeping his return to the big-time on track.

Griffiths has scored in his two appearances since the mid-winter break – the opener in the 2-1 Scottish Cup win over Partick Thistle at Firhill a week ago and the 3-1 Premiership success over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in midweek.

The 29-year-old international frontman stuck his fingers in his ears in a clear signal he wasn’t listening to the noise from the doubters who insisted his career at the champions was at an end.

After slotting in the second goal against Killie, Griffiths raced across to point at the Sky TV gantry – with critic Kris Boyd co-commentating on the game – in another obvious reply to the pundit’s recent remarks.

EAR I GO…Leigh Griffiths sends a message to the doubters after scoring against Partick Thistle.

However, Sutton reckons the Celt should just stick to putting the ball in the back of the opponents’ net and continuing to impress manager Neil Lennon.

The  former Parkhead goal hero, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “A lot of people are quick to criticise Leigh Griffiths and there are perhaps occasions when it’s completely justified.

“Should he have lobbed the tape at the Kilmarnock fan the other night? Of course not. It was daft. But no-one is going to end up in A&E after getting hit by a bit of paper.

“Everyone does daft things sometimes – but if anything Griffiths also deserves to be commended.

“This is a player who could have been lost to the game completely. Instead, he is back in the Celtic side and scoring goals again.

“Griffiths still has a long way to go until he’s back to being the player he was a few seasons ago, but it’s an impressive start.

“Everyone knows why Griffiths has not been involved much over the last 12/18 months. It took a lot of bravery for him to come out last summer and lay it bare just what he’d been going through.

“It takes a lot of courage for such a high-profile figure to go public and be open about his issues.

“Griffiths should be applauded as it may give others in other walks of life the confidence to talk about issues. ”

WALLOP…Leigh Griffiths beats Alex Bruce’s challenge to score against Kilmarnock.

Sutton continued: “Dont’ forget, he’s also missed matches as he’s just not been picked.

“In the last three years Celtic have had a £20million striker in Moussa Dembele playing the lone striker role and, more recently, he’s had £9million Odsonne Edouard, who could go on to be a £20million-plus player.

“Celtic haven’t played with two up all that often, so there were times when Griffiths was going to miss out.

“In fairness to him, he had a really good battle with Dembele for a while when the pair were both fit.

“There have been issues, as well, so it’s harsh in the extreme to use that against him. Mental health is a serious issue and isn’t something to be thrown around flippantly.

“Don’t get me wrong,  there are times when Griffiths has been spiky, angry and made mistakes. But there have also been occasions when he has been a bit of a lost boy, with an air of vulnerability.

“It’s just something that can’t be ignored and should be taken in to account. A lot of people had doubts we’d ever see Griffiths back on the pitch again, let alone back scoring goals.

“But he has not returned to the Celtic team out of the goodness of Neil Lennon’s heart.

“Griffiths is there because his manager has seen something he has liked in recent weeks and believes he can do a job for his team.

LIFT-OFF…Jonny Hayes celebrates with Griffiths after he makes it 2-0 at Rugby Park.

“He’s proved Lennon right this week. There were promising signs in his partnership with Odsonne Edouard and when you add Patryk Klimala in to the mix, Lennon now has options when it comes to selection and formation.

“Despite all of that, you can’t excuse Griffiths for his actions at Rugby Park.

“Let’s not go overboard, when it comes to offences, chucking a bit of tape at a fan is hardly Eric Cantona’s kung fu kick.

“But it was still wrong. How will the spineless SFA deal with it? That’s anyone’s guess. They’ll probably wait three weeks and then tell us he was booked after the game.

“It’s just another silly incident that seems to be par for the course in Scottish football this season. There’s no need for it and we can also do without clubs constantly making excuses for the actions of their players.

“There’s nothing wrong with admitting it was out of line and promising not to do it again.

“Perhaps we’ll get a statement saying in Leith, throwing tape is just a signal the match is over. Nothing would surprise us any more.”

Sutton added: “It wasn’t just the tale of the tape though. Even the Griffiths goal celebration created headlines.

“I’m bored of it. I’m fed up with players making daft signs or gestures to crowds, why can’t they just enjoy a goal, shake hands with your team-mates and get back on with the game?

“Every time the ball hits the net the celebration has to mean something nowadays. Just give it a rest.

“Griffiths has to try to ignore the noise from the stands and from the critics and just keep concentrating on himself.

“If he can keep building his fitness and scoring goals, while keeping himself away from controversy, then he’ll deserve all the praise in the world.”

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v Ross County this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.


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