Celtic great Chris Sutton believes Leigh Griffiths must start repaying the club after a summer “attitude issue”.
Griffiths arrived back for pre-season out of shape, and then went on to pick up a nasty calf injury after the final pre-season game against Hibernian.
That left the striker out of the Champions League qualification campaign, where Celtic played without a striker against Ferencvaros and were sent tumbling down into the Europa League qualifiers instead.
Griffiths marked his first competitive appearance of the season with a goal against St Johnstone on Sunday as he announced his return to the Parkhead fold. However, Sutton believes that he has a long way to go before he’s repaid the faith shown in him by the manager and supporters:
Speaking on the Daily Record’s Celtic podcast, Sutton said: “I thought he took his goal superbly at the weekend and that was just a lovely reminder of what Leigh Griffiths can bring to this Celtic team.
“I watched him getting interviewed after the game and he had only been on a few minutes and he was out of breath. So he’s clearly got fitness issues. But you only have to look at last season and the transformation up top – Celtic were scoring goals in abundance with the two strikers.
“Had Leigh Griffiths knuckled down over the period when football had stopped then they would’ve come back in a far better situation for the Ferencvaros game. He repaid Neil Lennon a little bit with the goal in Perth but I think he’s got a lot more repaying to do really because that was an attitude issue (in the summer).”
Griffiths is pure raw quality
We know Griffiths comes with a unique personality. That doesn’t have to be delved into any further, but Neil Lennon knows exactly what he has in Griffiths.
Even if he needs to build up his match-sharpness, you can’t teach the eye for goal that the Scotland international has. He’s just genuine, raw quality, and no matter how long he spends out injured or for other reasons, he consistently comes back into the fold and finds the net almost instantly.
Trying to get him some consistency is both his and the club’s main challenge now. Having Griffiths playing every week between now and the season easily adds another 20 goals to our total. That’s the kind of finisher he is.
If you take a look back at Griffiths’ history since he signed for the club, his goal record is phenomenal. Yes he has 116 goals in 235 appearances, but whenever he’s played consistently over the course of a full campaign for us, he’s never bagged below 20 goals (Transfermarkt).
It’s no wonder there’s a reluctance from Lennon and the Celtic support to cut ties with such a talent. Yes he gets leeway – he’s a different kind of player who needs managed in a certain way. But Celtic have done that since he arrived in 2014 and have consistently been rewarded for it via big goals from Griff.
As a supporter, I absolutely love what he brings to this team and would have him in there every day of the week. Lennon, if he can get him up to speed, will undoubtedly feel the same way.